Tellurium is a crucial component in First Solar's thin film semiconductor, and it’s at the Rio Tinto Kennecott mine in Magna, Utah, where tellurium is refined from copper mining waste tailings. Rather than being disposed of as mining waste, First Solar gives tellurium a new life as the most eco-efficient photovoltaic semiconductor available today. A kilogram of First Solar’s tellurium-based semiconductor can be recycled 41 times to produce clean energy for over 1,200 years before it stops being effective.
"Tellurium is a byproduct for us, but we see the importance of producing it to support renewable energy. When we decided to resurrect the tellurium process, I was very excited. I'm very passionate about the sustainability of the environment by bringing products that can help achieve that."
Kenly Ochoa | Principal Advisor | Kennecott Utah Copper Refinery, Magna, Utah
Tyler and Cory count the copper anodes that have collected copper and other precious metals including tellurite before lifting them with a crane from the processing line.
"The byproducts of the copper process here are silver, gold, lead, and tellurium, all of which are sent to us at the precious metals plant for processing. We recover the silver, gold, and tellurium, along with selenium and lead carbonate. As a process engineer, I continually monitor the efficiency of these processes."
Elizabeth Kpe, Process Engineer & Harry Becht, Graduate - Chemical Engineering | Kennecott Utah Copper Refinery, Magna, Utah