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Exploring Asian Salt Domes

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A 21st Century Satellite Orbiting Earth

Russian satellite photos have unveiled a vast complex of salt domes in the Caspian Depression located on remote western lands of the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan.

Salt domes are underground formations of crystalline salt which also store potassium, iodine, magnesium and rare elements. The chemicals can be recovered from salt domes by quarrying, the cheapest form of mining.

One salt dome, the massive Chelkar deposit, covers 1,250 square miles and is nearly five miles deep. It alone could provide raw material for several chemical plants for half a century, according to the Institute of Geological Sciences at the Kazakhstan capital of Alma-Ata.

Explorers knew the domes point to deposits of oil and gas. Before the satellite study, oil and gas fields had been developed on a commercial basis in the Caspian Depression, but only the Indorski salt dome had been mined for salt and borates.

The orbiting resource satellites mapped 1,200 salt domes, some with their tops cropped right out onto the surface. Unfortunately, Kazakhstan has been short on funds to tap its many salt domes.

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