Bulk Material Handling in the Phosphates Industry

This article was authored by:

Carrie Carlson
Technical Writer

As a vital nutrient to supporting life on Earth, phosphorus is a key ingredient in animal feeds, fertilizers, and more. Found in the form of phosphate rock, this essential nutrient is mined and processed all over the world.

No matter what material is being produced from the phosphate, however, all of these operations have one thing in common: they rely on heavy-duty bulk material handling equipment to keep operations running seamlessly.

Material handling equipment is used frequently throughout animal feeds granulation, fertilizer granulation, and phosphate mining and beneficiation operations in order to bring automation and flexibility to a process.

Common Phosphate Material Handling Equipment

Bucket Elevators

Bucket elevators transfer phosphate materials vertically and are often chosen because they are ideal for high capacity handling applications.

While single chain bucket elevators are an option, the most popular choice for phosphate bucket elevators is the double chain continuous style, due to their increased capacities and height capabilities.

Bucket elevators are highly customizable, allowing for an optimal handling solution to be met for nearly any application.

Troughed Belt Conveyors

Troughed belt conveyors are also commonly used in phosphate processing operations. Belt conveyors allow material to be carried horizontally and are commonly used to transport material from one process stop to the next, or from one building to another.

Belt conveyors are also extremely customizable, with common modifications including the addition of loading skirtboards, belt cleaning systems, and more.

A variety of additional conveyor types exist to further optimize the handling of a phosphate operation, with two of the most popular being:

Reversing Shuttle Conveyors

A reversing shuttle conveyor consists of a belt conveyor that is mounted to a rail or track system, in order to allow for more than one discharge point and conveying in both directions.

Steep Incline Conveyors

Steep incline conveyors carry material vertically, or at an angle that is too steep for horizontal transport.

Belt Trippers & Plows

Belt trippers and plows allow for increased flexibility of a material handling system. Trippers travel along the length of the conveyor and can discharge material at any point along the travel range, providing for a continuous, long storage pile of material, as compared to a single pile of material discharged from the end of a conveyor. Trippers essentially “trip” material off the conveyor at either fixed or movable points, while belt plows are fixed, but allow for discharge from the conveyor on one or both sides.

Belt Feeders

Belt feeders ensure controlled feed rate from a bin or hopper onto a conveyor or other piece of process equipment. They are highly versatile and can be used in a variety of applications.

Considerations in Handling Phosphates

Whether the material is animal feed, fertilizer, or phosphate rock, phosphate products present a few challenges that will require ingenuity on the part of the equipment manufacturer…

Abrasion & Corrosion

Phosphates can often be abrasive and sometimes corrosive. Material handling equipment will likely require customizations to guard against abrasion and corrosion in order to maintain process efficiency and prolong equipment life.

This might include reinforcing high-wear areas such as transfer chutes, or using various alloys such as stainless steel to construct the handling equipment.


Additionally, material should not be allowed to build up in equipment, as this can promote excessive wear.


No matter what type of phosphate operation is at hand, material handling equipment plays a critical role in automating the process and allowing for flexible, seamless operation. FEECO has been providing custom material handling equipment since 1951 and has been serving the needs of the phosphate industry for just as long. For more information on our heavy-duty phosphate material handling equipment, contact us today!

About the Author . . .

Carrie Carlson is a technical writer and visual designer.

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