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The Puna plateau sits at an elevation of 4,000m, stretches for 1800 km along the Central Andes and attains a width of 350–400 km. The Puna covers a portion of Argentina, Chile and Bolivia and hosts an estimated 70 – 80% of global lithium brine reserves.
The evaporate mineral deposits on the plateau – which may contain potash, lithium and boron – are formed by intense evaporation under hot, dry and windy conditions in an endorheic basin – endorheic basins are closed drainage basins that retain water and allow no outflow – precipitation and inflow water from the surrounding mountains only leaves the system by evaporation and seepage. The surface of such a basin is typically occupied by a salt lake or salt pan. Most of these salt lakes – called salars – contain brines which are capable of providing more than one potentially economic product.