Pacific island story

I would like to tell you tonight the story of a tiny pacific island, hope it will raise some interest for this forgotten place.

Aerial picture of Banaba

Banaba is an island of 5 km² located on the Republic of Kiribati. During centuries it had been almost totally isolated, next island, Nauru is located 300km away. Local people, Banabans lived in autarky there, they had their own culture and language.

Then at the beginning of the 20th century it was discovered that the topside of the island was made of phosphate witch is is a valuable fertilizer. This led to the annexation of the Island by the British. At that time there was around 450 Banabans living there. In 1901 a company made an "agreement" with the locals to mine the phosphates deposits for 5o pounds a year during 999 years. Then operations began, foreign workers from China and Kiribati were hired. Tonnes of phosphate began to be shipped to Australia and New Zealand.

The WW2 had terrible effects, foreigners were evacuated at the beginning of the war. In 1942, Japanese invaded the island and deported the majority of the locals in other islands. All except one from the few (150) witch remained where murdered at the end of the war by the Japanese.

Mining operations started again shortly after the end war but instead of repatriating the surviving Banabans witch had been deported in other pacific islands, Australian government told them that their villages had been totally destroyed (witch was a lie) and sent them to Rabi Island in Fiji, 3200 kilometers away.

Work was so well done that in 1979 there was no remaining phosphate, the company left a totally destroyed island, all the topside had been dug, only pinnacles of limestone remained there.

Few Banabans have managed to come back in their homeland, the majority of them is still living in Fiji.

Landscape look like that


Ken & Stacey's picture

Banaba - Abara Banaba: Our homeland

Thank you for helping us tell the world about my people, the Banabans (the Forgotten People of the Pacific) and what happened to our Island because of the U.K., Australia and New Zealand governments who mined our island for phoshpate. Today most of our Island's precious soil was scattered across the farms of Australia and New Zealand.

We hope one day that we will see the rehabilitation of our homeland.