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At present, there are no known mineral deposits elsewhere in the country, though surveying has recently started in the country’s vast exclusive economic zone in order to search for minerals in the surrounding ocean. According to a 2011 report by the Minerals Unit of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development, manganese nodules and cobalt crusts have recently been discovered in the oceans surrounding Kiribati. Research is now being planned for the viability of these minerals for exploitation. The presence of such minerals is expected to contribute to the economy of Kiribati in the future and as a result to alleviate the pressures on the country’s limited resource base.
Phosphate mining used to be a large sector in the country — with the Banaba Phosphate Mine running until 1979, the same year Kiribati achieved its independence, when all reserves of phosphate were exhausted. The Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund was created in order to manage earnings stemming from the county’s phosphate mining industry, which at the time of establishment accounted for more than half of Kiribati’s government revenue, and was the country’s largest export.
There is also small scale salt production which takes place on Christmas Island, although the process involved is very rudimentary, involving the excavation of salt deposits from the bottom of shallow ponds, which are then left exposed to the sun, evaporating the water and leaving behind salt residues which are dug up by hand. The salt is shipped overseas, mainly to Japan.
Gravel and sand are quarried for building purposes. Most activities are informal, apart from a small section of the Public Works Department in Kiribati, which is responsible for producing gravel to be used in the construction and maintenance of roads and causeways.
Beach aggregate mining has long been carried out on the most populated atoll of Kiribati South Tarawa for the production of sand, pebbles and stones. However, due to the environmental implications of this form of mining, the effect of which has been thoroughly researched by the Secretary of the Pacific Community Applied Geoscience and Technology Division, the government is progressing with plans to phase out beach mining, in favour of the more sustainable lagoon dredging.
There is no official mining legislation in place in Kiribati. However, legislation that may affect deep sea mining activities has been implemented in the past. The Kiribati Environment Act of 1999 emphasises requirement for the protection of biodiversity and prevention of negative impacts on habitats and ecosystems, which must be taken into account when carrying out deep sea exploratory activities. As well as this, the Kiribati Fisheries Act 2010 refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources and the protection of marine habitats from pollution and degradation from marine vessels.
Kiribati is not currently EITI compliant.
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