Curiosities: Where is the world’s largest salt flat?

By Eddy Montilla.

Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni, with its more than 10,580 square kilometers, is the world’s largest salt flat and it is located in Potosi, in southwest Bolivia. No one knows for sure how much salt makes up Salar de Uyuni, but it is estimated at 10 billion tons of salt.

     Salar de Uyuni is one of the most incredible natural wonder in the world. It is the flattest place on Earth to a point that scientist use it to calibrate satellite sensors. One of the most surreal landscapes can be seen there, especially during the raining season (from December to March) when water turns Salar de Uyuni into a shallow salt lake (a couple of inches) that perfectly mirrors the sky. This enormous salt flat becomes what must be the world’s biggest mirror. The mirror image of the clouds and sky extend as far as you can see, creating an exotic backdrop for photographers and an invisible horizon where there is nothing to distinguish earth from the heavens.

     Since everything here is salt, you can also find a hotel made, of course, of salt.

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     Several thousand years ago, different lakes covered the plateau there. Around 15,000 years ago, Minchin Lake covered most of the area where Salar de Uyuni is, but the water from the lake had evaporated significantly leaving deposits of different chemical elements and minerals that over several thousand years made the salt crust that we can see today. The crust is comprised of 11 layers which vary in thickness. In many areas, the salt crusts are more than 10 meters thick.

     Salt is extracted from Salar of Uyuni. However, the greatest threat to the environment is lithium, a metal used in batteries for mobile phones, computers, etc. It is said that this area contains from 50 to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves, so nobody knows if men will destroy one more time Mother Nature.

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