Mining and Agribusiness: what is the relation between these two industries? - Core Case

Mining and Agribusiness: what is the relation between these two industries?

Agribusiness and mining are the two of the most relevant industries to the Brazilian economy. According to a research conducted by Cepea (Center for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics), of Esalq/USP, in a partnership with CNA (Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil), the Agribusiness industry grew 8.36% in 2021, reaching a 27.4% share in the country’s GDP.

As for income in the mining industry, it grew 62% in 2021, compared to 2020, reaching R$ 339 billion Reais. 

Especially due to fertilizers, mining and agribusiness are extremely closely related, to know more, read this article through the end!

Agricultural commodities and fertilizers

Fertilizers are products that provide nutrients for plants to develop, largely used in several cultures for maintaining the soil and improving foods. NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) is one of the best known fertilizers in the world, and Brazil depends on 90% of the Potassium and 70% of Nitrogen, and 50% of Phosphorus, in terms of importation.

Therefore, mining and the extraction of these natural substances are directly related to the development of agribusiness, considering that the decrease in the production of these fertilizers directly affects the agribusiness.

Soil Remineralization Rock Flour

The rock flour or soil remineralization technique consists in applying fine-grained, silt-sized particles of rock in the soil, for recomposing the fraction of minerals that have been weathered or mined and which carry relevant nutrients to plants (VAN STRAATEN, 2007).

These nutrients can be categorized as:

  • Macronutrients: K, P, Ca, MG and S;
  • Micronutrients: B, Cl, Cu, Fe and beneficial elements such Silica.

These remineralizing agents, for originating from silicate minerals, have a wider variety of secondary nutrients and micronutrients relative to soluble fertilizers.

Overall, the SGB-CPRM research has been showing that alkaline volcanic rock, such as phonolites, kamafugites and some basalts have shown very good results as remineralizers, as well as biotite schists.

Moreover, mineral input can be used for correcting soil acidity, among other practices. That contributes to the sustainable development of agriculture, and also to afford more autonomy to that industry.
Regulatory Directive No. 5, of 2016, issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) sets the rules for remineralizers, access the link to learn more.

Future Trend

According to some studies and projections of the Ministry of Agriculture, Brazil is likely to have a 27% increase in food production over the next decade, which will increase the need for NPKs and other natural input and application thereof in the agribusiness.

Therefore, the Brazilian Geological Service carried out a mining prospection campaign focused on these inputs in 2020.

For Potassium, the potential of potassium salt deposits was expanded in 70% due to occurrences originated in the Amazonas Bay, which may be geologically similar to other areas that are the world’s top potassium producers, such as Russia and Canada.

As for Phosphate, the carbonatite project was discovered in Rio Grande do Sul in 2009, which has recently had its interim license approved, projecting investments of over R$ 400 million Reais.

Serra Geral Group Agrominerals Project

Last year, SGB-CPRM presented the “Serra Geral Group Agrominerals Project” project in Rio Grande do Sul, which characterized part of the state of the continental basalt Paraná-Etendeka province, of Cretaceous age.

The project was developed for research into alternative sources of agricultural nutrients and soil correctives originating from volcanic rocks from the northern portion of the state, part of the Agromineral Potential Assessment of Brazil, whose objective is

surveying and assessing sources of minerals and rocks for use in the remineralization and soil conditioning technique all across the national territory, focused on materials available in piles of mining tailings.

For this specific study, a field survey was conducted between July 2012 and June 2014, focused on collecting quantities of samples of rock, fine-grade and Zeolites for agronomic testing. 

Lithostratigraphic scheme of the Serra Geral group in Rio Grande do Sul and distribution of sampled points. Source:

Were performed:

  • Petrographic analysis;
  • Petrographic analysis;
  • analysis by electron microscopy screening;
  • X-ray diffractometry analysis;
  • reflectance spectroscopy (RE) analysis

After all the analysis and lab work, rock samples were characterized according to their potential to build agrominerals, including, in this case, soil remineralizers, soil conditioners, fertilizers or beneficial elements.

The presence of heavy metal Cd in part of the basalt samples in the region ultimately showed restrictions relative to care necessary for preserving food safety in employing these rocks in agriculture.

The work showed the region has potential, but that more specific research must still be conducted for attesting whether or not this material can be used. For seeing the full paper, click this link.

As seen before in future trends and due to the 2022 fertilizer crisis, considering the Ukraine and Russia conflict, the prices of this input has been approximately 78% above the 2021 average. This event proved how important it is investing in this area and how relevant it is, not only for Brazil, but to the entire world.

Therefore, investing in research and prospection of minerals focused on this type of fertilizer and agrominerals is growing more important by the day, and by doing that, the country will know better the potential of its reserves and which areas must be the focus of study and research for this agenda.


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