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any of a group of naturally occurring inorganic salts of phosphoric acid, H3(PO4). More than 200 species of phosphate minerals are recognized, and structurally they all have isolated (PO4) tetrahedral units. Phosphates can be grouped as: (1) primary phosphates that have crystallized from a liquid; (2) secondary phosphates formed by the alteration of primary phosphates; and (3) fine-grained rock phosphates formed at low temperatures from phosphorus-bearing organic material, primarily underwater