Fluoroapatite, a hard crystalline phosphate mineral, is the fluorine end-member of the apatite group, which also encompasses chlorapatite and hydroxylapatite. The extended apatite supergroup includes additional minerals such as pyromorphite, mimetite, and vanadinite. Pure fluoroapetite is a hard crystalline solid which generally appears colorless or white when pure and is also available in green, brown, blue, yellow, violet, and pink colors. Fluorapatite is a highly common type of phosphate minerals which occurs as an accessory in igneous as well as calcium-rich metamorphic rocks. Generally, it is found in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary deposits. In sedimentary marine ores, the phosphate is usually a carbonate and in lateritic soils, it is a residual mineral. It also occurs as a detrital or diagenic mineral in sedimentary rocks and is an essential component of phosphorite ore deposits.
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Fluoroapetite is found in the teeth of sharks and other fish in varying concentrations. It is also present in human teeth that have been exposed to fluoride ions, for example, through water fluoridation or the usage of fluoride-containing toothpaste. Fluroapatite helps prevent tooth decay or dental caries. During the production of phosphoric acid, fluoroapatite generates hydrogen fluoride as a byproduct which in turn is used as a source for the manufacture of hydrofluoric acid. The latter is employed as a starting agent for the synthesis of a range of pharmaceutical and industrial fluorine compounds. The market for fluoroapatite is driven by the increasing demand for phosphate minerals in the production of fertilizers.
On account of its extensive stiffness, resistance to acid damage, and biocompatibility, fluoroapaptite is the ideal choice for biomedical as well as dentistry applications such as crowns, inlays, dentin simulators, coatings, and cements. Additionally, it is used as a biomaterial in orthopedic applications for bone regeneration. Fluorapatite is mined as the primary source of phosphate fertilizers and therefore used to make fertilizers, acids, and chemicals. It is a common phosphate mineral and the main source of phosphorous for plants. Fluoroapatite is also a popular collectors’ mineral, especially some of its transparent specimens. Its reddish and gemmy violet forms command very high prices and are much valued by collectors.
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Fluoroapaptite is available in Europe in Russia, Germany, and Portugal. Panasqueira in Portugal is well-known for its thick and gemmy tabular fluoroapatite crystals. In Canada, large glassy fluoroapaptite crystals in orange calcite originate from the Yates mine in Quebec. Extremely large crystals are also found in Ontario and at Cardiff. In the U.S., Maine is home to several fluoroapaptite localities. Globally, North America is the dominant fluoroapatite mineral producer driven by the extensive number of fluoroapatite zones in the U.S and Canada. Other significant producers of phosphate minerals include Australia, Brazil, and Algeria. In Asia Pacific, fluoroapaptite is produced in significant volumes by Australia, China, and India. This high demand stems from the need for fertilizers in this region. China and India are two densely populated countries and hence consume a substantial amount of fertilizers. In Latin America, Brazil and Peru are major fluoroapaptite producers. It is also manufactured in Egypt, Jordon, Syria, and Tunisia.
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Key players operating in this market include GB Minerals Ltd., Dakota Matrix, and Crystal Classics Ltd.