Salt pan (geology)
Natural salt pans are flat expanses of ground covered with salt and other minerals, usually shining white under the sun. They are found in deserts, and should not be confused with salt evaporation ponds.
A salt pan is formed where water pools evaporate. An example of a salt pan would be a lake or a pond that is located in a climate where the rate of water evaporation exceeds the rate of water precipitation, i.e., if it were not in a desert. If the water is unable to drain into the ground, it remains on the surface until it evaporates, leaving behind minerals precipitated from the salt ions dissolved in the water. Over thousands of years, the minerals (usually salts) accumulate on the surface. These minerals reflect the sun's rays and often appear as white areas.
Salt pans can be dangerous. The crust of salt can conceal a quagmire of mud that can engulf a truck. The Qattara Depression in the eastern Sahara desert contains many such traps which served as strategic barriers during World War II.
The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is the largest salt pan in the world, and contains between 50% and 70% of the world's lithium reserves.
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