The Lithium Rush
In the Bolivian Andes lies a vast salt flat that may shape the future of transportation.
The 10,000-square-kilometer Uyuni salt flat (salar in Spanish) extends to the horizon in all directions. These days it’s a breeding ground for pink flamingos and a draw for curious tourists, but in prehistoric times it was once an immense lake. Water falling in the Andes still flows here, and as it works its way over volcanic rocks toward the salar, it picks up minerals, including magnesium and lithium. Baked by the sun, the water becomes a mineral-rich brine that flows under the salt desert’s crusty surface.