Rio Tinto to Build New Tellurium Plant at Kennecott Mine in Utah
Rio Tinto TelluriumBritannica

Rio Tinto to Build New Tellurium Plant at Kennecott Mine in Utah

Rio Tinto will begin construction on a new plant that will recover tellurium, a critical mineral used in solar panels, from copper refining at its Kennecott mine

Rio Tinto will begin construction on a new plant that will recover tellurium, a critical mineral used in solar panels, from copper refining at its Kennecott mine near Salt Lake City in Utah in US. Rio Tinto is investing USD 2.9 million to set up the plant, which will recover tellurium as a byproduct of copper smelting, extracting a valuable mineral from waste streams. The plant will have a capacity to produce approximately 20 tonnes of tellurium per year. Rio Tinto expects to begin production of tellurium in the fourth quarter of 2021, creating a new North American supply chain for this critical mineral.

Tellurium is an essential component of cadmium telluride, a semiconductor used to manufacture thin film photovoltaic solar panels. Thin films made of this compound can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. Tellurium can also be used as an additive to steel and copper to improve machinability, making these metals easier to cut. It can also be added to lead to increase resistance to sulfuric acid, vibration and fatigue.

Tellurium is a chemical element with the symbol Te and atomic number 52. It is a brittle, mildly toxic, rare, silver-white metalloid. Tellurium is chemically related to selenium and sulfur, all three of which are chalcogens. It is occasionally found in native form as elemental crystals. Tellurium is far more common in the Universe as a whole than on Earth. Its extreme rarity in the Earth's crust, comparable to that of platinum, is due partly to its formation of a volatile hydride that caused tellurium to be lost to space as a gas during the hot nebular formation of Earth and partly to tellurium's low affinity for oxygen, which causes it to bind preferentially to other chalcophiles in dense minerals that sink into the core.

Along with producing almost 20 per cent of US copper, Kennecott’s smelting process also recovers gold, silver, lead carbonate, platinum, palladium and selenium, while molybdenum is recovered from the Copper concentrator. In total, nine products are currently recovered from the ore extracted at Kennecott.https://cdn.britannica.com/48/22348-050-71DF708D/Tellerium-Te-square-periodic-table-some-properties.jpghttps://cdn.britannica.com/48/22348-050-71DF708D/Tellerium-Te-square-periodic-table-some-properties.jpg

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