So, for those who are commiserable wretches with lacunae the size of the Pacific, Nauru is an island in the Pacific Ocean, it has some ten thousand really fat people living on it, it has basically two things going for it, fishing rights over its economic exclusivity zone and guano.
Guano? Right, bird shit, enormous staggering quantities of solidified bird shit, accumulated over thousands of years by vast flocks of marine birds, now turned into phosphate rock, which you can strip mine with utter banality of ease.
The mining started in 1906 and terminated utterly in 2002, thousands of years of birds shitting obliterated utterly in less than a century, not a bad track record, not bad at all. The unbelievable environmental damage is a totally different story, the interior of Nauru was basically a nightmare of jagged limestone pillars, with absolutely zero agricultural value and frankly very ugly.
Remember the first thing they had going for them? The fish? Yeah, the run off from the Phosphate mining basically wiped out forty per cent of the marine lifeforms within reach of the island, and island that doesn’t have a harbour due to ragged coral reefs surrounding then entire island, the only way they got the damn phosphate off the rock was using a large ram reaching above the reefs to pour the materials into the ships.
Now, Nauru did something very sensible, they established a Sovereign Wealth Fund, just like the Norwegians and several Arab nations have done, the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust, which began investing in various real estate projects around the globe, at it’s height, it amount to almost a billion US dollars.
- Fiji: The Grand Pacific Hotel
- India: Paradeep Phosphate
- New Zealand: Auckland Sheraton Hotel, Roturua Sheraton Hotel
- Philippines: Manila Pacific Star Hotel, Philippines Phosphate & Fertilisers
- Contiguous United States: Pacific House (Washington), Singer Building Development (665 acres – Houston), Hillside Property (600 acres – Oregon)
- Hawaii: Nauru Tower, Hawaiki Tower
- Guam: Pacific Star Hotel
- United Kingdom: 3 Chesham Street (London)
- Samoa: Properties at Vaitele and Sogi
- Australia: Nauru House
Not bad right? Sure, but overspending and relentlessly poor management of the wealth contained, began to make itself known, they managed to burn off the cash reserves they had, meaning loans, that they couldn’t pay.
How mismanaged? One of the advisors to the fund, Duke Minks (A music producer, famously known for Unit 4 + 2, yeah I don’t know who that is either) recommended they invest two million pounds sterling in a musical, which he wrote.
Leonardo the Musical: A Portrait of Love, a giant of a musical, took four hours to perform, nobody stayed to watch, ran for five weeks, lost all the money.
In the end, the fund ran out of cash, it’s last attempt was a consolidation of their loans, essentially taking a giant loan from General Electric to pay everything off, it failed and GE seized what they could.
The Phosphate was gone, the money was gone, hell, most of the island was gone. Nauru now survives from hosting a “processing center” for refugees arriving to Australia and not much else.
Add to that the literally most obese people on Earth, due their diet being mainly processed food, no cash, no tourism and no prospects.
But hey, at least they’ve got an airport and a railroad.
The lesson? That mineral wealth is very much finite and don’t waste it if you’re a stupid little island in the Pacific.