Rio Tinto plc of England has announced that it will begin construction of a new plant that will recover tellurium from copper refining at its Kennecott mine near Salt Lake City, UT. The company is investing US$2.9 million to set up the plant, which will recover tellurium as a byproduct of copper smelting. The plant will have a capacity to produce approximately 20 tonnes/year of tellurium.
Rio Tinto expects to begin production of tellurium in the fourth quarter of 2021.
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.
Gaby Poirier, Rio Tinto Kennecott managing director, said, “The minerals and metals we produce are essential to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. Adding tellurium to our product portfolio provides customers in North America with a secure and reliable source of tellurium produced at the highest environmental and labor standards with renewable energy. Rio Tinto is committed to using innovation to reduce waste in our production process and extract as much value as possible from the material that we mine and process.”
Volume 35, Issue 05