University of Leicester
Browse
Te in surface environments review revision 1.pdf (4.86 MB)

Love is in the Earth: A review of tellurium (bio)geochemistry in Earth surface environments

Download (4.86 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2020-03-19, 14:56 authored by OP Missen, R Ram, SJ Mills, B Etschmann, F Reith, J Shuster, DJ Smith, J Brugger

Tellurium (Te) is a rare metalloid in the chalcogen group of the Periodic Table. Tellurium is regularly listed as a critical raw material both due to its increased use in the solar industry, and to the dependence on other commodities in its supply chain. A thorough understanding of the geo(bio)chemistry of Te in surface environments is fundamental for supporting the search for future sources of Te (geochemical exploration); developing innovative processing techniques for extracting Te; and quantifying the environmental risks associated with rapidly increasing anthropogenic uses. The present work links existing research in inorganic Te geochemistry and mineralogy with the bio(geo)chemical and biological literature towards developing an integrated Te cycling model.

Although average crustal rocks contain only a few μg/kg of Te, hydrothermal fluids and vapours are able to enrich Te to levels in excess of mg/kg. Tellurium is currently recovered as a by-product of base-metal mining; in these deposits, it occurs mainly in common sulphides substituting for sulphur. Extreme Te enrichment (up to wt.%) is found in association with the precious metals Au and Ag in the form of telluride and sulphosalt minerals. Tellurium also forms a large variety of oxygen-containing secondary minerals as a result of weathering of Te-containing ores in (near-)surface environments. Anthropogenic activities introduce significant amounts of Te into surficial environments, both through processing materials that contain minor Te, and through breakdown of used Te-containing materials. Additionally, radioactive 132Te is produced in nuclear reactors, and can contaminate surrounding and distal environments.

Environmental contamination of Te poses concern to organisms due to the acute toxicity of some Te compounds, especially the soluble tellurite and tellurate anions. A small percentage of microorganisms, however, are able to tolerate elevated levels of Te by detoxifying it through precipitation or volatilisation. Bioaccumulation of Te compounds can occur in some plants of the garlic family. A variety of interlinked organic and inorganic processes governs Te environmental chemistry. The Te cycle in surface environments incorporates (oxidative) dissolution of Te from primary ore minerals, inorganic precipitation and redissolution processes in which secondary minerals are formed, and bioreductive reprecipitation and volatilisation processes governed mainly by microbes. Our integrated Te cycling model highlights the interplay between anthropogenic, geochemical and biogeochemical processes on the distribution and mobility of Te in surface environments.

History

Citation

Earth-Science Reviews (2020)

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Earth-Science Reviews

Pagination

103150 - 103150

Publisher

Elsevier BV

issn

0012-8252

Acceptance date

2020-03-07

Available date

2020-03-09

Publisher version

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0012825219306993

Language

en

Usage metrics

    University of Leicester Publications

    Categories

    Exports

    RefWorks
    BibTeX
    Ref. manager
    Endnote
    DataCite
    NLM
    DC