The Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works site (Chile), removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger



Release Date

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


Baku (Azerbaijan), 02 July—The World Heritage Committee, meeting in Baku since 30 June, decided to remove the site of Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Chile) from the List of World Heritage in Danger thanks to the national authorities’ measures to ensure its sustainable conservation and management.

The Saltpeter Works were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2005 and, simultaneously, on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to the fragility of their buildings, the lack of surveillance and maintenance over 40 years, and damage caused by high winds. Some of the buildings were risked collapsing as they were weakened further by an earthquake in 2014.

A series of measures have been adopted over the past 15 years by the country's authorities to improve the situation, including the establishment of round the clock surveillance, the building of fences around the boundaries of the property, the construction of a bypass to stop traffic inside the site, and the introduction of security measures for visitors.

The Committee welcomed these measures as well as the definition of the protective buffer zones, the development of a safeguarding strategy and the establishment of a management plan for the site.

The Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works contain over 200 former saltpeter mining sites 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 starting in 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 Europe, and produce great wealth for Chile.

The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, —be they due to armed conflicts, natural disasters, unplanned urbanization, poaching, pollution or other—and encourage corrective action. 

The 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee continues until 10 July.

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