New Mexico Geology
2016, Volume 38, Number 1, pp. 1-16.
Tellurium resources in New Mexico
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Tellurium (Te) is one of the least abundant elements in the crust and tends to form minerals associated with gold, silver, bismuth, copper, lead, and zinc sulfide deposits. There are no primary tellurium mines in the world; most tellurium production comes from the anode slimes generated in metal refining, primarily from copper porphyry deposits. Tellurium is used as an alloying agent in iron and steel, as catalysts, and in the chemical industry. However, future demand and production could increase because tellurium is progressively used in thin film cadmium-tellurium solar panels and some electronic devices. In New Mexico, anomalous amounts of tellurium are found associated with porphyry copper deposits, as well as with gold-silver vein deposits, but were not considered important exploration targets in the past. The only tellurium production from New Mexico has been from the Lone Pine deposit (Wilcox district) in the Mogollon Mountains, where approximately 5 tons of tellurium ore were produced. Gold-tellurides are found with gold, silver, pyrite, and fluorite in fracture-filling veins in rhyolite at Lone Pine, with reported assays as much as 5,000 ppm Te. Tellurium-bearing deposits also are found in the Organ Mountains, Sylvanite, Tierra Blanca, Grandview Canyon, and Hillsboro districts. Additional detailed sampling and geologic mapping are required of the New Mexico deposits to fully understand the mineralogy and economic potential of tellurium.