chapter  6
31 Pages

Mining: Valparaiso and the Nitrate Regions

WithJohn Mayo

In July 1857, Valparaiso credited Smith with $20,000 and at the same time debited the Lima house for the same amount though nitrate was more than to replace Gibbs’ guano profits, the house went into it extremely cautiously. The convenience of using Valparaiso as a transshipment center was probably the main factor, for Peru possessed a good port at Arica, which was also the terminus of the most direct route to the Bolivian altiplano. But if the deserts of Tarapaca and Bolivian Atacama offered small markets for imports and attracted few ships, their exports were another matter. Between 1851 and 1886, an increasing trade in copper, guano, silver, and especially nitrate, developed in both regions. The new nitrate mining companies did not initially establish their own marketing networks, but instead sold the nitrate on the coast or consigned it in the traditional manner through a commission merchant.