My name is Tekaneati Teririaki and my grandmother’s name is Tebureraai Kirenang. During my childhood and teenage years, my grandmother shared stories about her beloved Banaba (Ocean Island). She shared the challenges they faced because of the phosphate mining and forced relocation, and the hardship and emotional trauma they experienced under the British, Australian, and New Zealand mining of Banaba Island. She wanted me to ensure that never again would we allow the extraction or mineral exploration on any parts of our homeland. The land that belonged to our ancestors and remains precious to our people.
Banaba Island has historically been one of the most lucrative and high-grade sources of phosphate rock for global markets. It was mined from 1900 to 1980 by colonial phosphate interests, and the people displaced to Rabi in Fiji. Global demand for phosphate has grown, not just for fertilisers but now for semiconductor industries and today, we have to again fight off the poison of extraction threatening our island.
My grandmother told me that we would suffer the same fate as they did if we allowed any company to re-mine our island. The benefits would only go to government officials and mining companies, not to our people. Whenever she shared the stories and memories of their relocation, she would shed tears. I took it lightly before, but now I understand all of the hurt and the pain that she and many families on Banaba experienced.
Since then, I have shared these same stories to my children on the importance of protecting and defending our land. If there is remaining phosphate, that doesn’t give us the right to exploit and strip what is left of our islands. We need to to find alternative and sustainable sources of income and rather than pandering to mining companies, our leaders should help us build a future beyond extraction.
I will continue to teach my children to respect our ancestors, protect our island and to never forget the stories of what our people have gone through. This will ensure our future generations will not make the same mistakes. I carry the torch of my grandmother’s plea to defend what is left of Banaba Island.
She said, never again. We cannot allow this to ever happen again. That’s why I say no to Centrex. I say no to exploration, I say no to exploitation, and I say no to mining.