The Nitrate Industry

Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works2005

UNESCO World Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage

Following the end of the Saltpeter War between Chile, Peru and Bolivia in the 1880s, the Chilean territory annexed the provinces of Tarapacá and Antofagasta. These lands had a great variety of minerals. Among them, nitrate, which dramatically changed the country’s economy. During that period Chile became the world’s largest producer of this natural fertilizer. Since the early 19th century, the Atacama Desert’s saltpeter was well known in North America and Europe for both its agricultural and industrial properties; it was used as a natural fertilizer and raw material for the production of gunpowder. In Chile, nitrate exploitation was mainly led by English private companies, which had to pay high export taxes to the Chilean state, thus bringing in great wealth. After the First World War, the increasing competition from artificial saltpeter resulted in English companies gradually abandoning the nitrate industry in Chile.


  • Title: The Nitrate Industry
  • Creator: Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works
  • Date Created: 2005
  • Location Created: Chile
  • Rights: Chilean National Archive
  • Location: Chile
  • Inscription Criteria: Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
  • Date of Inscription: 2005
  • Category of Site: List of World Heritage in Danger

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