Phosphate salts are retrieved from naturally occurring minerals, which are mined, refined, and purified for use in many applications. Phosphoric acid is produced starting with naturally-occurring phosphate ore mined around the world.

a heap of ammonium sulphate

Natural phosphates are used as phosphate ores (apatite and phosphorite). Some natural phosphates have a more limited application; for example, vivianite is used as an inexpensive blue pigment and local phosphorus fertilizer, monazite as a source of rare earths and thorium, amblygonite as a lithium ore, and turquoise as an ornamental stone.

a class of minerals of the salts of orthophosphoric acid, H3PO4, with highly variable composition. There are about 180 phosphate minerals.

Phosphates are classified into several primary groups based on the number of phosphorus (P) molecules. Each of these groups have functional properties ideal for many applications.

Orthophosphates  Buffering ———> detergents
Pyrophosphates  Sequestering ———> water treatment, metal cleaning
Tripolyphosphates  Dispersant ———> meat processing, dish detergent
Polyphosphates  Dispersant ———> kaolin production