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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook mineral industries of Asia and the Pacific 1992
Year 1992, Volume 3 (1992)

Lyday, Travis Q.
Nauru,   pp. [268]-270 ff. PDF (913.0 KB)


Page 269

 THE MINERAL INDUSTRY OFTHE MINERAL INDUSTRY OF NAURU—1992  269
NAURU 
By Travis Q. Lyday 
 The 21-km2 island of Nauru is one of three historic phosphate-producing
islands of the Pacific. The other two are Banaba (or Ocean Island) in the
Gilbert Islands Group of Kiribati and Makatea, part of French Polynesia;
however, Nauru is the only remaining producer. 
 Nauru is the world's smallest nation. It also has one of the highest per
capita incomes in the world. The economy continued to be based on the mining
of extensive high-grade phosphate rock deposits on the central plateau of
the island by the Government-owned Nauru Phosphate Corp. (NPC). The deposits
are among the richest in the world, having a consistent content of 84 % bone
phosphate of lime (BPL) or tricalcium phosphate, equivalent to 38.5% phosphorus
pentoxide (P2O5). Rock treated in the calcination plant averaged about 89
% BPL (40.7 % P2O5) and may be as high as 91 % BPL (41 .7 % P2O5). 
 Phosphate rock is mined from deposits interdigitated with evenly spaced
dolomitized coral limestone pillars using mechanical extractors with clamshell
buckets, leaving the coral as a "forest" of very hard-rock pinnacles.
The
associated coral is cobbed for domestic use as road aggregate. 
 After overburden is removed by bulldozing, the alluvial phosphate rock is
removed from around the coral pinnacles, trucked to a railhead for primary
crushing, and reduced to minus 50 mm. A narrow-gauge railway using diesel
locomotives transports the crushed material to a treatment plant where it
is dried before further crushing to minus 12 mm and sold as run-of-mine product.
A proportion of the fme material is upgraded by high-temperature calcination
to remove organic carbon and marketed as Nauru Calcined Rock. 
 There is 3.9 km of NPC-owned railroad track, which is used to transport
phosphate from the central plateau of the island to processing facilities
in Aiwo District on the southwestern coast. 
 All phosphate rock mined on Nauru was exported by NPC. Phosphate remained
Nauru's sole export. Exports of phosphate rock, by destination, for 1990-92
are given in table 2. Phosphate rock reserves on Nauru are expected to be
sufficient for only a few more years of mining at current production levels.
 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, Netherlands, delivered
in June its judgement on the preliminary phase of Nauru's claim for entitlement
to compensation from the former partners of the British Phosphate Commission
(BPC). The BPC was composed of Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
The decision affirmed that the ICJ does indeed have jurisdiction to hear
and determine Nauru's claim, filed in May 1989 against Australia after Australia
had rejected the compensation claim, concerning certain phosphate lands in
Nauru. Australia rejected the proceedings in a counterclaim filed in early
1991 on several issues, perhaps foremost of which was based on the fact that
both New Zealand and the United Kingdom were not joined as parties to the
proceedings. Australia contended that because the administering authority
comprised three states, any finding of breach on the part of Australia would
mean the other two states would be discharged of their respective obligations.
 The crux of the dispute is the assertion that Australia, as the administering
authority in control of the phosphate industry on behalf of the other partners
of the BPC, had failed to rehabilitate the environmental damage to the land
caused 
by phosphate mining during the period from 1919 until 1968. The NPC assumed
control of the island's phosphate industry in 1968, shortly after the island
country's independence. 
OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION 
Nauru Phosphate Corp. 
Republic of Nauru 
 Central Pacific 
Telephone: +674 4180 or +674 4198 


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