Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works Chile

Humberstone and Santa Laura works contain over 200 former saltpeter works where workers from Chile, Peru and Bolivia lived in company towns and forged a distinctive communal pampinos culture. That culture is manifest in their rich language, creativity, and solidarity, and, above all, in their pioneering struggle for social justice, which had a profound impact on social history. Situated in the remote Pampas, one of the driest deserts on Earth, thousands of pampinos lived and worked in this hostile environment for over 60 years, from 1880, to process the largest deposit of saltpeter in the world, producing the fertilizer sodium nitrate that was to transform agricultural lands in North and South America, and in Europe, and produce great wealth for Chile.

Chile Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works
Continent: South America
Country: Chile
Category: Danger
Criterion: (II) (III) (IV)
Date of Inscription: 2005

Huge cultural exchange complex

The development of the saltpeter industry reflects the combined knowledge, skills, technology, and financial investment of a diverse community of people who were brought together from around South America, and from Europe. The saltpeter industry became a huge cultural exchange complex where ideas were quickly absorbed and exploited. The two works represent this process.

Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works
Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works

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Largest producers of natural saltpeter

The saltpeter mines and their associated company towns developed into an extensive and very distinct urban community with its own language, organisation, customs, and creative expressions, as well as displaying technical entrepreneurship. The two nominated works represent this distinctive culture.

The saltpeter mines in the north of Chile together became the largest producers of natural saltpeter in the world, transforming the Pampa and indirectly the agricultural lands that benefited from the fertilisers the works produced. The two works represent this transformation process.

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