Tuesday, April 2, 2013

SALAR DE UYUNI (More than meet the “Li”)


Hope we got your attention with this amazing picture! This is the Uyuni Salt Flats, located in southwest Bolivia and is the largest salt flat in the world. It has an area of 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 square miles) and it sits at 3656 meters (11,995 feet) above sea level. Known mainly for its vast white landscape and for its unique reflective surface during the raining season, the Uyuni Salt Flat is popular among travelers and photographers. The Uyuni Salt Flat's extreme level surface can calibrate altimeters on board satellites. The Uyuni Salt Flat came to be after a great lake that covered the area dried up 16,000 years ago.

Due to a survey assisted by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Uyuni Salt Flat’s value is up to $137 million (U.S.). The high value is due to large deposits of lithium found in the brine that lies underneath the surface salt crust. Currently known as the largest deposits of lithium in the world, it is unsurprising that the estimated amount of lithium in these salt flats is 5.4 – 9 million tons.

Lithium is extremely valuable these days as it powers our phones, mp3 players, electric cars, etc. Along with high demands, concerns of depleting the sources and damaging the salt flats are in the rise. The depletion and drained source of our fossil fuels is inevitable and a similar fate awaits for lithium deposits as the current market in electronic cars demands 500 kilotons of lithium per year. In order for lithium battery powered cars to become a norm, Mitsubishi estimated a complete depletion of the Uyuni Salt Flat’s lithium deposits by 2015 (estimated in 2012). The Bolivian Government spoke out saying that anything that happens to their natural resources must come back to their country and their economy. They stand strong against foreign industries intruding on their grounds. The Bolivian Government are currently mining their Salt Flat with their own plant.


Photo provided by: Hayden Carly @ http://www.haydencarlyonphotography.com/

References:

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/lithium/mcs-2011-lithi.pdf

http://books.google.com/books?id=j0QrAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA60&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1166387/In-search-Lithium-The-battle-3rd-element.html

http://calval.cr.usgs.gov/rst-resources/sites_catalog/radiometric-sites/uyuni-salt-flats/

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028160.100-bolivias-stunning-salt-flats.html

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