The Tarapaca province of Chile is largely arid desert but was very rich in nitrates, which were being mined by the 1830s with mules carrying the production down to the Pacific coast for shipment. As demand grew railways were developed in the 1860s/1870s linking the Oficinas mining the nitrates to the ports of Iquique and Pisagua; which were then bought out by The Nitrate Railways Company formed in London in 1882. The latter had a virtual monopoly on the transport in the province, a situation that continued up to 1929, when the metre gauge FC del Norte opened a line from Pintados to Iquique; by which time the nitrates industry was in terminal decline. The Nitrate Railway's concession expired in 1936 but they continued to operate the system until taken over by the state railway in 1940.
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