Rabi, Fiji – The landowners of Banaba Island have strongly opposed the agreement for Australian mining company, Centrex Limited, to explore phosphate mining on Banaba.
The Banaban people now reside on the island of Rabi in Fiji, after they were forcefully relocated in 1945 to allow for British, Australian and New Zealand industries to mine the Banaba Island for phosphate. Given the tumultuous history of the Banaban people with extractive industries, the people of Rabi and Banaba are concerned with the recommencement of phosphate exploration in Banaba without prior community consent.
Robert Karoro, Former Principal Mineral Officer for Kiribati Government says,
“In August of 2022, the Centrex team visited Kiribati and approached us for permission to collect samples from Banaba. We informed them that they cannot proceed without approval from the Rabi Council of Leaders. They then tried to apply for a two-year mining license and again, we told them to go to Rabi and come back to us when they have the approval of the Rabi Council of Leaders. It seems this agreement has gone ahead without said approval and therefore, should be annulled.”
According to community representatives, the agreement was made between Centrex Limited and the Fiji Government-appointment Rabi Administrator, a sole individual carrying the decision-making power previously held by the Rabi Council of Leaders. Since the announcement, the four chairmen of Tabwewa, Uma, Tabiang, and Buakonikai on behalf of their villages and communities on Rabi Island have called for a halt to all Centrex activities and scoping on Banaba Island.
The groundswell of opposition to the Centrex deal has led the Administrator to pause the agreement, and more community members to appeal for the annulment of the deal and the reinstatement of the Rabi Council of Leaders to ensure proper community consultation.
Pacific civil society and grassroots communities support the calls of the Banaban people for fair and prior community consent, as well as an end to harmful and extractive industries across all Pacific Islands.
Itinterunga Bainteiti, Pacific Youth Focal on Climate Change and Human Displacement says,
“Our futures are non-negotiable. Centrex announced that they intend to place the recently signed agreement on hold whilst the Rabi Council of Leaders Administrator further consults with the Banaban community and that the company will keep the markets informed on any further development. I am calling on Centrex to cancel the deal. We can’t negotiate on our futures with a mining company because we have seen what they did to our ancestral home island in the past and we do not want to repeat the same mistake”
Jacynta Fa’amau, Pacific Climate Warrior says,
“The Pacific is facing the poison of extractive industries at every turn. From the climate crisis exacerbated by fossil fuels, to the displacement of peoples by greedy mining companies. The people of Banaba deserve autonomy over what happens to their ancestral lands, and the Pacific cannot stand by as Centrex looks to make a quick buck off of their lands, resources and histories.”