Hydrological issues associated with brine extraction to produce potash and lithium at the Salar de Atacama in Northern Chile are complex. One central feature is the concern that brine extraction with evaporative processing could cause imbalances in the basin’s hydrology. Zelandez has led a group of like-minded folks to understand how a DLE and brine re-injection strategy might work in the Salar de Atacama, which is the most scrutinized lithium brine extraction site in the world. Leonard Zourek and Steve Shikaze are two Masters students at ETH Zurich who have developed MODFLOW models to understand the dynamics of fresh & spent brine mixing after lithium was removed using a DLE technology and brine re-injected. They are publishing their models for free to help develop preliminary understandings of what is possible for lithium brine development in South America and beyond. These models may provide helpful starting points for thinking about spent brine re-injection to protect sensitive ecosystems or prevent fresh and spent brine from mixing.
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