Saltpeter Exploitation Systems

Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works2005

UNESCO World Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage

Nitrate was exploited in Chile through three production systems, known as “Paradas”, “Shank” and “Guggenheim”. The Paradas System, the most rudimentary of them, was invented by Czech naturalist and geologist Tadeo Haenke and was used by the nitrate industry’s pioneers in the Tarapacá region. According to this system, saltpeter was heated over a direct fire to extract pure nitrate. In the 1870s, British engineer Santiago Humberstone brought the Shank System to Chile, which led to the modernisation and growth of the offices, increased their production and reduced costs. Lastly, the Guggenheim System was introduced by engineer Elías Cappelen Smith and implemented in Chile in the 1920s. This was the most efficient system and managed to enhance the production process. However, having developed in the midst of the Chilean saltpeter crisis, it was adopted by two offices only: María Elena and Pedro de Valdivia.


  • Title: Saltpeter Exploitation Systems
  • Creator: Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works
  • Date Created: 2005
  • Location Created: Chile
  • Rights: National History Museum Collection
  • Location: Chile
  • Inscription Criteria: Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
  • Date of Inscription: 2005
  • Category of Site: List of World Heritage in Danger

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps