Tag Archives: mining

Enormous Lake In Bolivia Has Nearly Dried Up

Teeming with fish and wildlife, it used to be Bolivias second-largest lake, but now Lake Poop has been reduced to little more than a dusty plain. In just a matter of years the water body that used to support hundreds of families living on its edge has been reduced to around just two percent of its original size. While the Bolivian officials are putting it down to climate change and the continuing impact of El Nio, others are blaming the government for mismanaging the vital water source.

Located on the Bolivian altiplano at an altitude of 3,700 meters (12,139 feet), in the 1990s it used to cover an area of 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles), making it second in size only to the well-known Lake Titicaca. But due to repeated droughts and the diversion of tributaries for mining, the level of the salt water lake has continued to drop, until last year when El Nio, which some consider to be the worstin a century, virtuallyfinished it off. Millions of fish are thought to have died, as well as hundreds of birds that used to live in the wetlands.

The lake in 2009, teeming with flamingoes, fish, and other wildlife. green_lava/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This isnt the first time that the lake had dried up it did so in 1997 giving some people hope that it could return at some point. But others warn that with the melting of the glaciers high in the Andes, and the ramping up of climate change, this scenario is now unlikely. When the current drought lifts and the rains return, it is expected to fill up a little, but it is not thought that it will last. This had led to calls for the government to do something to try and help ease the situation.

So far its estimated that two thirds of the families, some 500 in total, have left the community thatused to exist on the lake shore. Made up of fishermen and farmers raising sheep and alpaca, there is now little left for them to make a living from, forcing the government to provide at least 3,000 people with humanitarian aid just for them to survive.

The lake used to get most of its water from the Desaguardero River, which flows from the larger Lake Titicaca, and considering Titicaca still has plenty of water it seems odd that Poop is now so arid. The heavy build-up of red silt where the river used to enter the lake gives a hint as to what might also be going on. It is largely thought that this silt has come from the multitude of mining outfits which take place further up the river and divert it. The silt is thought to be a result of the mining, which has also added toxic tailing into the mix.

Despite this, the government still maintains that the blame lays on the changing climate, and has requested that the European Union provide the country with $140 million (97.5 million)to dredge the tributaries such as the Desaguadero, as well as to build water treatment plants in the rest of the lakes watershed. All these schemes, however, are probably too little, too late.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/bolivias-second-largest-lake-has-nearly-all-dried

Planetary Resources 3D Print An Alien Material

3D printing is capable of some incredible things, from creating huge bridges, prosthetics for amputees, and even human hearts using biological ink. Jumping on this bandwagon, the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources hasbeen flaunting their own attempts at 3D printing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The results are literally out-of-this-world 3D printing, with the companyshowcasing a design forged from asteroid materials.

Planetary Resources raison d’tre is to mine valuable resources from asteroids, which are demonstrably rich sources of metals and compounds including platinum, nickel, iron, and cobalt. Many contain plentiful water, which couldbe converted into rocket fuel and help prolong space missions. Their ultimate aim is to help create a space-based business economy: ambitious for sure, but its CEO, Chris Lewicki, thinks that this will be possible by 2025.

Although this process has yet to begin, Lewicki was determined to have a presence at the world-renowned technological showcase. Using a meteorite that landed in Campo Del Cielo, Argentina, a decorative object has been made out of it, essentially a 3D Planetary Resources logo. The partnership with 3D Systems has resulted in the first-ever direct metal print from asteroid-derived metals.

The 3D-printed logo, made from nickel, iron and cobalt. Credit: Planetary Resources

Explaining the motivation behind the 3D printing to Engadget, Lewicki said: Instead of manufacturing something in an Earth factory and putting it on a rocket and shipping it to space, what if we put a 3D printer into space and everything we printed with it we got from space? There are billions and billions of tons of this material in space.

Despite this world first, the technique used to print the material isnt new. Nevertheless, it does highlight the fact that 3D printing, a clearly versatile technology, can be applied to asteroid-mined materials. NASA is also aware of the possibilities: Officials have previously noted that 3D printing could assist human space exploration, with spacecraft, outposts, and supplies generated on other planets and celestial objects using this exact technique.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/literally-out-world-3d-printing-demonstrated-planetary-resources