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    Apatite, calcium fluophosphate (Kola Peninsula)

    Encyclopedia Arctica 10: Soviet North, Geography and General

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    Form for receipt of article "Apatite, calcium fluophosphate (Kola Penin.)"

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            APATITE, calcium fluophosphate containing forty per cent, usually, of

    phosphoric anhydride, is the richest phosph [ ?] o r ic combination in nature and

    therefore [ ?] , a major commercial [ ?] source of phosphate fertilizer,.

    [ ?] Having many other industrial applications, it is a mineral found

    chiefly in the Arctic. The largest deposits, twenty times greater than all others

    combined, are in the Khibiny Mts. (cf.) of Kola Peninsula (cf.) in the USSR,

    where it is found in combination with much larger quantities of nephe–

    line (cf.) and near, but not mixed with, numerous other rare minerals.

    [ ?] . Another deposit in

    the USSR is near Sverdlovsk in the Ural Mts. It has also been dis–

    covered in Norway, Sweden, Canada, Spain, South Africa and South America. [ ?]. The chemical composition is

    Ca 5 (ClF) (PO 4 ) 3 . The specific gravity varies between 3.16 and 3.22.

    It is of the fifth degree of hardness. It belongs to the hexagonal sys–

    tem, as it takes the forms of prisms and thick tablets. The name is

    derived from the Greek apatē (deceit), as it resembles many other min–

    erals, and was long confused with beryllim, chrysolite and tourmaline.

    It may look like ordinary milk-white limestone, like the transparent

    crystal of quartz, and like large-grained marble. Its diverse coloring

    contributed to the confusion, for it appears white, green, red or violet.

    Itsuses are not confined to the derivation of calcium phosphate as a

    fertilizer. It can be made into a successful pharmaceutical against

    fatigue. It is dissolved into lakes and ponds to accelerate the growth

    of fishes. It improves the quality of pig-iron and ennobles bronze.

    Steel covered with apatite-film is impervious to corrosion. The deposits

    at Mt. Kukisvumchorr on the Kola Peninsula range up to 600 [ ?] feet in thick–

    ness and outcrop on the hill slopes, whereas the veins discovered in other countries are three to five ft. thick When visited by the International

    Geological Congress excursion of 1937, the Soviet mine was regarded as one of

    the industrial wonders of the world. The property had been developed

    in eight years and there were 20 miles of underground galleries, fully

    electrified. Ordinary freight trains carry the ore from the heart of

    the mountain.

            The discovery of Russia's Khibiny apatite represented the results

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    APATITE, a mineral found chiefly in the Arctic (Murmansk Region; Canada; Norway), is one of the most important sources of phosphate

    fertilizers; The chemical composition is Ca 5 (ClF) (PO 4 ) 3 ; specific gravity varies from 3.16 to - 3.22; it is hexagonal

    in system (prisms and thick tablets). The name is derived from the Greek

    apatē - deceit, as it resembles many other minerals, and was long con–

    fused with beryllium, chrysolite and tourmaline. It may look like ordi–

    nary milk-white limestone, like the transparent

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    of vast expenditures by the Soviet government through allocation to

    the USSR Academy of Sciences, which organized the necessary expedit–

    itions, based on the geological studies of the late [ ?] Aleksandr

    Fersman (cf.) His conclusions were based on his discovery of the man–

    ner of formation of the Khibiny Mountains. They came into being in

    the last stages of cooling of the earth's surface, when, due to contrac–

    tion, cracks appeared on the surface, and the molten mass flowed again

    from within, rich with the volatile contents of phosphorus and fluorine.

    The mass finally hardened, forming apatite and nepheline rocks in two

    arched ridges. Parties prospecting the area where the presence of

    these rare minerals was indicated criss-crossed it for 6,000 miles

    on foot and by reindeer, and carried out three tons of rock samples

    on their backs before apatite was found. It is now known that the

    apatite-nepheline combination lies in the two arcs mentioned above.

    The smaller, and western, is of little industrial importance. The

    larger, and eastern, stretches for seven miles, and then continues

    another seven more to the north of Mt. Kuelpor, prospected in 1931.

    Here again apatite rock is traced for a stretch of about a mile.

            Exploitation of the resources was undertaken in 1929. The first

    problem, [ ?] now that the presence of vast commercial deposits

    was definitely established, was to learn where the richest ore was

    located, how [ ?] much of it was there, and determine where the mines

    were to be sunk. An apatite-nepheline committee was organized by the

    Leningrad Regional Council of National Ecenomy. (The Kola Peninsula

    was then administered from Leningrad, 800 miles to the south, for it

    was merely a small port - Murmansk - in a semi-desert hinterland, for

    all practical purposes.) The colonizing department of the Murmansk

    Railroad began building houses and enterprises in the Khibiny Range.

    The Scientific Research Institute for Fertilizer began its laboratory

    work. Within two-and-a-half months further prospecting provided a

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    of vast expenditures by the Soviet government through allocations to

    the USSR Academy of Sciences, which organized the necessary expeditions,

    based on the geological studies of the late Aleksandr Fersman (cf.) Parties

    [ ?] criss-crossing the area where its presence was indi–

    cated covered 6,000 miles by foot and behind reindeer, and carried out

    three tons of rock samples on their backs until apatite was found. Its

    discovery and development has saved the Soviet Union tens of [ ?] millions of

    dollars formerly spent on the importation of African phosphorites and,

    further, has provided a valuable source of foreign currency through ex–

    port via Murmansk. Here is an Arctic resource of utility other than mone–

    tary that has become a definite asset to the national economy.

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    detailed report on the apatite seams in Mt. Kukisvumchorr. Prior to

    September, 1929, there was a single wooden barracks there, for the pros–

    pectors [ ?] under Prof. Fersman, where, ten years later,

    there stood the town of Kirovsk[??] (cf.) with 40,000 inhabitants. But Fersman

    was able, at this point, to demonstrate the presence of at least as

    much apatite as was known to exist in the rest of the world (as it turned

    out, an exceedingly conservative estimate). This made the matter one of

    importance sufficient to demand consideration by the State Planning Commi–

    ssion of the USSR, the Supreme Council of National Economy, and the

    Council of Labor and Defense. All agreed to proceed with development of

    these riches, and, late in 1929, a special Apatite Trust was organized,

    under V.J. Kondrikov as manager.

            The first industrial problem was that of finding the correct angle

    for the ore to fall from a height of several hundred yards, [ ?]

    [ ?] as the mine is high on Mt. Kukisvumchorr, which rises

    almost like a mesa over the town of Kirovsk. If the angle of fall were

    between 10° and 20°, it turned out that the rock would not slide, even

    on iron sheets. When it was increased to 35° it crashed with great force,

    smashing the wooden walls of the chute and wrecking installations down

    below. Finally the correct angle was found, mountain roads were cut for

    truck transportation of the ore, and a branch line with numerous spurs

    was built from the Murmansk railroad, totaling thirty miles in length. The first trainload of apatite

    left in July, 1930. The [ ?] S.S. Andre Marty ,

    carrying the first samples for export to Hamburg, was besieged and over–

    run by speculators, newsmen, scientists and representatives of the phos–

    phate fertilizer industry, for German [ ?] phosphorite imports

    had hitherto been of a Moroccan ore containing seven to fifteen per cent

    less phosphoric anhydride than the new Soviet product.

            Having dug the mine, built the railroad and made possible the ship–

    ment of raw ore, the next step was to develop the processing of the ore

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    1650 on the spot, to save the tremendous expense of hauling "waste" (later

    developed as by-products) to the country's fertilizer factories hundreds

    and, in some instances, as far [ ?] as two thousand miles away. The first

    process is concentration - separation of the apatite from nepheline. Al–

    though the first concentration mill built at Kirovsk had only one-twelfth

    the capacity of the three now operating, it is a vast affair handling

    a dozen carloads of ore per hour, or 1,300 tons of ore daily. In the ab–

    sence of any other apatite concentration mills elsewhere in the world, 100

    the erection of this enterprise took considerable daring. There was no

    precedent for the filtering, drying and storing of apatite concentrate.

    Faced with the risk of error on the one hand, and the need for saving the

    foreign exchange spent on [ ?] phosphorites on the other, the govern–

    ment took the decision to proceed with this large mill at the outset,

    rather than a small experimental plant, as advocated by some. Meanwhile

    two experts were sent to the United States to gather data on ore concentra–

    tion and order machinery. They took with them the plan for the mill,

    drafted in the record time of forty days. Construction began in February,

    1930, while the commission placed orders for the necessary machinery –

    600 complex pieces of equipment in all - in the United States, conditioned

    upon delivery in six months. The machinery was assembled in [ ?] some–

    what less than the four months stipulated by the American engineers brought

    in to supervise this phase of the work, and the mill went into operation

    August 1, 1931.

            The concentration plant consists of a crusher, a funnel ten feet

    in diameter with a revolving metal cone inside, from which [ ?] a rubber belt

    conveyor carries the ore to a fine crusher. Then, via a 3,500-ton storage bin, the

    pulverized ore goes to a flotation mill. Greasy olein acid is added. Rapid–

    ly revolving propellers beat up a foam. Particles of apatite become cover–

    ed with grease and air bubbles, coming to the surface in foam , which is

    brought to settling tanks, condensed and dried out.
    Meanwhile nepheline

    remains at the bottom of the tank, helped to settle by liquid glass. This

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    process takes place in a series of long baths placed in checkered order

    in the enormous flotation building. The apatite- [ ?] saturated

    foam is constantly taken off by mechanical scrapers, and pumped to the condenser

    department. There the water is settled by machines, the concentrate

    thickens and turns into a kind of dough. Then it is filtered and dried

    in enormous drums. Still hot, the concentrate, like a white flour, is

    poured into a storehouse of 5,000 tons capacity. [ ?]

    [ ?]

    [ ?] It then goes to a fertilizer

    plant which converts it into double superphosphate.

            Part of the apatite-nepheline ore does not go to the concentration

    mill at all, but to one of three other series of processings. One,

    through electrical [ ?] sublimation, produces yellow phosphorus,

    which in turn is converted into phosphorus salts, phosphoric acid and

    phosphorus-sodium salts. Another process, involving the addition, of

    other chemicals, produces carbon monoxide, ferr [ ?] phosphorus for [ ?]

    the iron and steel industry, and slag, which is made into bricks. A

    third has thermo-phosphates as its end product.

            See Nepheline for the treatment of that portion of the combined

    ore, and Khibiny Mining and Industrial Combine for the overall integra–

    ted [ ?] utilization of the many products found in this area.

            Lit: Large Soviet Encyclopedia (Russ.) Vol. 3, 1935, p. 142;

    Vol. 59, 1935, p. 518; Apatite - The Stone of Fertility , by V. Vishnevsky,

    Moscow, 1933; "The Wealth of the Kola Peninsula", VOKS Bulletin , 1939.


    William Mandel


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