The phosphate rush The history of the island in the late 19th century

Seabird guano has long been used as an agricultural fertiliser, probably since pre-Columbian days. This fertiliser, containing all sorts of organic materials, among which animal bones, was very widely used until an English geologist discovered in the 1850s that it was also possible to use mineral phosphates. This discovery led to an immediate industrial phosphate rush, starting in Western Europe. This new extraction industry very rapidly crossed the Atlantic with the discovery of phosphate deposits in the Caribbean in 1860. The industry rapidly developed on Caribbean islands with deposits found in Anguilla, Sombrero, Redonda, La Mona, Porto Rico, Aruba, Curacao, etc. And it was against this backdrop of a new mining dynamic in the Caribbean that the extraction of aluminous phosphates began on the island of Le Connétable, resulting from the reaction caused by the seabird guano* leaching into the igneous rocks of the island due to the rain. The islands - to which the United States briefly laid claim, citing the “Guano Act” that attributed all unoccupied phosphate islands anywhere in the world to the US - became a place of intense mining activity between 1882 and 1913 due to the presence of a series of American companies. The products were exported to Europe (France and England) and the USA. The appearance of the island was substantially altered by these thirty years of extraction, and nearly all of its current morphology results from the structure given to it by man ...

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