Rio Tinto has started producing tellurium at its Kennecott copper operation in Utah, becoming one of only two US producers of the critical mineral used in advanced thin film photovoltaic solar panels. Approximately 20 tons of tellurium will be produced per year through a new USD 2.9 million circuit built at the Kennecott refinery. This valuable material is recovered from by-product streams generated during the copper refining process, reducing the amount of waste that needs to be treated and discarded as mine tailings.The tellurium will be refined in North America by 5N Plus, a leading global producer of specialty semiconductors and performance materials, under a commercial agreement between 5N Plus and Rio Tinto. The refined tellurium will primarily be supplied to First Solar, the only American company among the world’s ten largest solar manufacturers, under an existing supply contract between 5N Plus and First Solar. 5N Plus will also use the tellurium to manufacture ultra-high purity semiconductor materials at its facility in St. George, Utah, to serve the security and medical imaging markets.Tellurium is listed as a critical mineral by the US Government due to its importance to the economy and energy security.Tellurium is one of ten metals and products recovered from ore extracted at Kennecott, which produces nearly 15% of US copper with the country’s lowest carbon footprint.