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The Andes Mountains are part of the Southern Cordillera formed from subduction zone volcanism at the convergent boundary of the Nazca plate and the South American plate. Aracar volcano (summit elev. 6,082 m) is one of many volcanoes in the Andes Range. It is a steep-sided stratovolcano with a youthful-looking summit crater 1-1.5 km in diameter. It is located just east of the Argentina-Chile border. Well-preserved lava flows are found at its base. Prior to a report of ash columns from the summit in 1993, the volcano was not known to be active and very little is known of the volcano's age and history.
The large whitish features are very common in the arid Andes; they are called salars. The term salar is used exclusively of the saltwater wetlands of the Puna (high Andes) and can describe not only salt lakes but also temporary marshes, shallow lakes and lagoons, or simply salt crust. The nearby Salar del Hombre Muerto is being put into mineral production. The endeavor is expected to become one of Argentina's biggest mines, producing up to 20,000 tons of lithium carbonate and lithium chloride per year, to be extracted by pumping from the area's lithium-rich saltbeds.
This image was taken from the Space Shuttle on February 20, 2000.
EarthKAM was formerly known as KidSat. To see images of KidSat, see http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/KidSat .