Massive mining evaporation ponds constructed in Chilean desert

Dominic Berube, Patrick Diebel, Andre Rollin, Timothy D Stark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The evaporation ponds in the Salar de Atacama region in northern Chile are lined with PVC geomembranes and they have performed well in this harsh environment. In addition, the use of a geomembrane-facilitated installation of a liner system in this dry and windy environment has suceeded because of the reduction in field seams due to the use of prefabricated panels. The use of dual-track, thermal-fusion welds to create the field seams facilitated testing of the entire length of the field seam and omission of destructive tests on the completed liner with air-channel testing. Further, the use of prefabricated panels and fewer field seams resulted in completing the liners quicker than using 7m-wide geomembrane sheets, and that expedited the initiation of the evaporation process and generation of revenue. An average of 325,000 ft.2 (30,000m2) of PVC geomembrane was deployed, welded, and tested on a daily basis. SQM's Salar de Atacama evaporation ponds represent the largest PVC geomembrane installation in the world to date with more than 16 million ft.2 of geomembrane installed and utilized since 1996.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Polymers and Plastics


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