With the COVID-19 Pandemic maintaining its crippling grip on the Pacific, legislators have struggled to find alternative sources of income to buoy national economies.
On the rocky outcrop of Nauru in the Central Pacific, the situation is dire.
The second nation in the region to gain independence, the once mineral-rich republic has fallen on hard times due to a lethal combination of extravagance, poor financial management and corruption.
In 1970, Nauru earned a staggering $AUD120million (US$88.4million) annually while spending $AUD30million. Each year it would put roughly $AUD80million into trust.
Now its phosphate supplies are long exhausted, and much of Nauru’s real estate investment portfolio worth more than $AUD1billion – including hotels in Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and the United States – has been sold.
Heavily reliant on Australia, Nauru has hosted detention camps for asylum seekers in order to create revenue and employment.
Now that arrangement to ‘process’ of refugees and asylum seekers is nearing an end, and Nauru has been forced to seek alternative income for its 10,000-odd population.
Last month, President Lionel Aingimea agreed to a deal with The Minerals Company – formerly Deep Green Metals – which will lead to a $USD75million ocean exploration project to find sources of battery metals for electrical vehicles. TMC is up against a deadline of 2024 when it hopes to begin production of 25% of the world’s electric vehicle batteries.
Underway in waters off Nauru, the research involves 57 people – 37 of them mineral researchers – aboard the vessel, Maersk Launcher. “Environmental Expedition 5B, which focuses on characterizing the pelagic or open sea component of the marine environment in its NORI-D contract area, is conducting research on site in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) of the Pacific Ocean,’’ TMC announced in a media release last month.
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