Salar de Atacama - Chilean salt marshes on the site of the former seabed are known for the concentration of about 29% of the world's reserves of lithium, which is used to create batteries for cars, laptops and smartphones.
Salar de Atacama is located in a remote mountainous area. It is the driest desert in the world, located at an altitude of 2, 250 meters above sea level, sandwiched on two sides: in the east by the Andes mountain range, and in the west by the Cordillera Domeyko ridge.
To the east is one of the most active Chilean volcanoes - Lascar, which is part of the Central Volcanic Zone. Saline solutions are regularly replenished with water from the snow melted in the mountains, and lithium and other salts come here from nearby volcanoes.
Lithium carbonate salts (Li 2 CO 3) are obtained by a method similar to obtaining the most delicious and expensive fleur-de-sel sea salt. The mining companies pump lithium-containing brine to the surface, where it is piped into plastic-lined evaporation ponds. Due to the hot climate and low rainfall, the water evaporates quickly, leaving deposits of lithium, boron and other salts.
The unique combination of climatic and geographic factors provides Salar de Atacama with the world's highest lithium salt production capacity. However, the increase in production is destroying the ecosystem, devastating aquifers that provide water to the local population and the scarce vegetation of the region. Environmentalists are sounding the alarm: a little more - and there will be no water at all.