Apatite, calcium fluophosphate (Kola Peninsula): Encyclopedia Arctica 10: Soviet North, Geography and General

Author Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Apatite, calcium fluophosphate (Kola Peninsula)

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
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


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
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.


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
^ 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
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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