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Global tellurium supply potential from electrolytic copper refining

June 5, 2022

The transition towards renewable energy requires increasing quantities of nonfuel mineral commodities, including tellurium used in certain photovoltaics. While demand for tellurium may increase markedly, the potential to increase tellurium supply is not well-understood. In this analysis, we estimate the quantity of tellurium contained in anode slimes generated by electrolytic copper refining by country between 1986 and 2018, including uncertainties. For 2018, the results indicate that 1930 (1500-2700, 95% confidence interval) metric tons of tellurium were contained in anode slimes globally. This is nearly quadruple the reported tellurium production for that year. China has the greatest potential to increase tellurium supplies. However, most of the tellurium potentially recoverable by Chinese refineries appears to come from copper mined elsewhere. Further research into the business decisions associated with tellurium recovery may help translate the physical availability of tellurium into economic availability. The methodology presented here can be applied to other byproduct elements.

Publication Year 2022
Title Global tellurium supply potential from electrolytic copper refining
DOI 10.1016/j.resconrec.2022.106434
Authors Nedal T. Nassar, Haeyeon Kim, Max Frenzel, Michael S. Moats, Sarah M. Hayes
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Resources, Conservation & Recycling
Index ID 70232114
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Minerals Information Center