Atacama region border dispute between chile and bolivia

Atacama border conflict is one of the longest border conflicts in the world.  It was a border conflict between Chile and Bolivia in the 1800s and ended up with signing of the Peace Treaty between Chile and Bolivia in 1904 and Chile and Bolivia in 1929.

At the end of the conflict, Chile annexed all the coastal strip of Bolivia and the southern tip of Peru.  At a point in the course of the conflict, Argentina was drawn into the conflict resulting to its annexation of Bolivian territory which as controlled by Chile.

Even after the signing of the peace treaty, the conflict seems to be going on since Bolivia still claim to be granted the sovereign access to Pacific Ocean even after annexation of its costal strip.  Although the area as owned by Bolivia and Peru, Chile continued with mining mineral rights even after the signing of the treaty which as Bolivia list it entire coastal line making it landlocked country.

The main cause of the conflict was the abundance of mineral in the Atacama Desert. Atacama Desert is the driest desert on either with little human inhabitation. However, it is very rich in minerals especially sodium nitrate.

This paper will review the Atacama Desert conflict. The paper will first review the geographical background of the Atacama Desert before going into details of the course of the conflict.  The paper will review the main factors that may have fueled the conflict, the course of the conflict and the results of the conflict.

Geographical background of the region

The region of conflict was lying in the Atacama Desert.  Atacama Desert it located in Chile and it covers more than one third of the northern side of Chile stretching for more than 1000 Km. It straddles the Southern border of the country with Peru.

The desert is bound on its Westside by dry hills and mounts and on the pacific cost side extending eastward to the Andes Mountains (MundonAndino, 2009).  Atacama is about 13, 000 feet high making it the highest and the coldest desert in the world.

The atacama is the direst place on earth.  It is very sterile since it is blocked from the getting moisture by the Andes Mountain and the coastal Chilean Coast Ranges.

The center of the   desert has been referred by climatologist as the absolute desert on earth. As long as climatologists have recorded rainfall in the world, there is no rain that has been recorded in the central part of the desert.  However, some areas in the desert have recorded annual average rainfall between 0. 6 and 2. 1 mm leading to growth of sparsely distributed vegetations.

In the area where no rainfall has been recorded, the only moisture in these areas comes from the dense fogs which are called camanchaca formed from the association of cold air and ocean currents which originate from the Antarctic regions.  Life in Atacama is one of the most complexes since this fog is harvested by both plants and animals alike.  The human beings living in Atacama harvest the fog and use the fog nets which capture the fogs and turn it to drinking water (Veblen and Kenneth 2000, p. 26).

The landscape is the same as it meteorology.  The landscape consists of plateaus covered by lava flows and basins of salt.  From the image above, the conspicuous white area is a Salt Flat which is located few miles south of one of the small village in San Pedro which is regarded as the epicenter of the desert.

Atacama is one of the sparsely population areas on earth.  However, there is an oasis at the middle of the desert which is elevated 200 meters where the village of San Pedro De Atacama lies.  Apparenlty this is a church which was constructed by Spanish conquerors around 1577 (Fernand1984, p. 59)).

Before the conquest by Spanish, the area was mainly inhabited by Atacameno tribe which is credited with the construction of the some fortified towns referred to as pucaras. With the coming of Spanish Empire, there was remarkable growth of cities and tow along the coast   which were mainly due to growth of silver trade mined in Potosi and other mines around the desert.

Archeological evidence also shows that San Pedro de Atacama could have been the center for Paleolithic civilizations. Other important mines which are located in the desert include Escondida mine and Chuquicamata mines.

Despite the ragged and dry landscape, Atacama is very rich in minerals.  It is a rich source of copper and nitrates which has been the subject of conflict for along time.

The whole desert is awash with abandoned nitrate mines. Apart from this, the desert has scientific importance as it is being used by scientists to study the possible survival tactics used by the inhabitants (Absolute Astronomy, 2009). Scientists have showed that the soil at the center of the Atacama Desert is like that in mass and the life in the desert could give important clues to possibility of life in mars.