Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Earth from Space: Atacama minerals

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Welcome back to Earth from Space.

This week, the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission

takes us over part of Chiles Atacama Desert.

Bound on the west by the Pacific

and on the east by the Andes

the Atacama is considered one of the driest places on Earth.

There are some parts of the desert where rainfall has never been recorded.

In this image, a specific area in the Tarapacá Region,

in northern Chile, is featured

where some of the largest caliche deposits can be found.

It is here where nitrates, lithium, potassium and iodine are mined.

Iodine, for example,

is extracted in a process called heap leaching

which is widely used in modern large-scale mining operations.

Leach piles are visible as rectangular shapes dotted around the image,

although the exact reason for the different shades of colour is uncertain.

Some leach piles could appear lighter or darker

owing to the varying water content

or soil type concentration.

The geometric shapes in the right are large evaporation ponds.

Brine is pumped to the surface through a network of wells into the shallow ponds.

The dry and windy climate enhances the evaporation of the water

and leaves concentrated salts behind

for the extraction of lithium

which is used in the manufacturing of batteries.

The bright, turquoise colours of the evaporation ponds

are in stark contrast with the surrounding desert landscape

making them easily identifiable from space.

Distinctive black lines visible in the image

are roads that connect to the various construction sites.

Copernicus Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission

to supply the coverage and data delivery needed for Europes Copernicus programme.

This false-colour image was processed by selecting spectral bands

that can be used for classifying geological features.

The Description of Earth from Space: Atacama minerals