The amazing landscapes created by the exploitation of lithium in South America

  • Richard Fisher and Javier Hirschfeld
  • BBC Future

Lithium Extraction Field

Credit, Reuters

Underneath the screen you are reading this on is probably the distilled essence of a salt plain.

Millions of years ago, volcanoes deposited minerals over vast tracts of South America. Then the water leaked through the rocks and formed huge lakes.

Then came the cycles of evaporation and deposition, which generated vast salt flats in which there is one of the most sought-after minerals in the world: lithium.

With the rapid increase in the use of batteries for electronic devices and electric automobiles, the demand for lithium and other basic materials in the industry is accelerating.