Nauru, officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, 300 kilometres (186 mi) to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just 21 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi).
In 1989 Nauru filed suit against Australia in the International Court of Justice in The Hague for damages caused by mining while the island was under Australian jurisdiction. Australia settled the case out of court in 1993, agreeing to pay a lump sum settlement of A$107 million (U.S.$85.6 million) and an annual stipend of the equivalent of A$2.5 million in 1993 dollars toward environmental rehabilitation.
A tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Nauru is, after Vatican City and Monaco, the third smallest country in the world (eight square kilometers) and has a population of just over 12,000 inhabitants, who speak a language of the Austronesian family.
The population has been estimated to be over nine thousand, of which indigenous Nauruans account for about six thousand. In the 1992 census, the population was projected to reach 8,100 by 1996, with a growth rate of 4.3 percent. The remainder of the population includes Pacific islanders from Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Fiji, along with Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Australians, and New Zealanders. The population is relatively young, with 66 percent of the people under age 24. Population growth has been a major concern throughout the twentieth century.
Nauru shares an overwhelming geographic isolation with her scattered island neighbours. The most immediate neighbour is Australia, over 4,000 kilometers away. Despite its small size and isolation, Nauru's story is one of monumental dimensions. Colonial annexation, world war, the the discovery of phosphate and a century's worth of mining have moulded a nation with a distinct history facing a unique future.
In 1968, Nauru took over the management of its people and affairs when independence was granted by the trusteeship committee of the United Nations. It took over the running of the phosphate mines in 1970 after paying $13.5 million (U.S.) to the British Phosphate Commission. Those two assertions of social and economic self-reliance released Nauruans from the dominance of outsiders who had exploited the phosphate and the people for seventy years. Mining for phosphate, which dominated Nauruan history in the twentieth century, began when the Pacific Phosphate Company based in Sydney found high-grade phosphate in 1906.
Following World War I, the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand unitedly bought out the interests of the London Company, and by the Nauru Agreement of 2nd July 1919, arranged for the industry to be carried out by a commission consisting of a member appointed by each of the three countries. The new control thus set up, and known as The British Phosphate Commissioners, was to carry on the operations on strictly business lines, but acting as agents for the three governments.
In the late 19 century, Germany and Britain expanded their empires causing friction between the two in the Pacific. As a result, the region was divided into two spheres of influence by the imperial powers - Nauru failing under the German sphere of interest. The Berlin Anglo-German Convention that carved this invisible line across the Pacific was to shape Nauru's future with great effect. Typically for German colonial administration at the time, a large German trading company, Jaluit Gesellshaft, made major contributions in financing Germany's occupation of the region and in return received a number of economic privileges including the right to explore guano deposits in the Marshall Islands and in Nauru. In 1888, these were not thought to be of any great value.
In 1798, a British navigator became the first European to visit the island. Germany annexed it in 1888, and by the turn of the century, phosphate, a lucrative fertilizer, began to be mined. The island was placed under joint Australian, New Zealand, and British mandate after World War I. The Japanese occupied the island during World War II and forced 1,200 Nauruans—roughly two-thirds of the population—to relocate. In 1947, it became a UN trusteeship administered by Australia. By 1967, the phosphate mining industry was finally under the control of the islanders, and on Jan. 31, 1968, Nauru became one of the world's smallest independent republics. For a period of time, Nauru's phosphate made the tiny country's per capita income the highest in the world, after Saudi Arabia.
Nauru existed as an independent island society until it was annexed by Germany in 1888 as part of the Marshall Islands Protectorate. In 1900 a British Company discovered phosphate on the island and negotiated with Germany for mining rights. In November 1914 Nauru was seized by Australian troops and remained in British control until 1921. At the end of the war, when the German colonies were detached, a League of Nations C Class Mandate was granted to Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.
Nauru (pronounced NAH-oo-roo) is an island in the Pacific just south of the equator, about 2,500 mi (4,023 km) southwest of Honolulu. Phosphate mining has virtually destroyed the tiny nation's ecology, turning its tropical vegetation into a barren, rocky wasteland.