News - Sep 18, 2023 Asbestos Removal on Banaba Island Gets Approval 

Banaba Island has a legacy of asbestos contamination starting with phosphate mining in the early 1900’s.  In 1945, 1,003 Banabans and Gilbertese were relocated from Banaba to Rabi Island, Fiji, due to the degradation of their island home from the impacts of mining.

Phosphate mining eventually stopped in 1979, and all movable assets were transferred to the ownership of the Kiribati Government, and all fixed assets (buildings) were transferred into the ownership of the Banaba Council.  These buildings are degraded, with most being constructed with asbestos sheeting.  Given the condition of the materials, these buildings now pose a health risk to the remaining island residents.

The Banaba Council has petitioned the Kiribati Government to secure support to have this asbestos legacy and health risk removed, and the request was forwarded to SPREP where the PacWastePlus Programme identified their ability to start the abatement process.

The Hon. Tibanga Tarata, the Banaba Island representative in the Kiribati Parliament, 12th Parliament, Maneaba ni Maungatabu met with members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) implemented and European Union-funded PacWaste Plus programme team to discuss a project soon to deploy to the Island with the intent of commencing the removal of degraded Asbestos Containing Materials from buildings on the Island.

With the assistance of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agriculture Developments (MELAD) and the Banaba Council, the PacWaste Plus programme has confirmed their project and is able to deploy specially trained contractors that will provide training to the local population on how to safely remove and store asbestos containing materials.

Additionally, the project will actively remove over 3,800 m2 of asbestos roofing and panelling and transport it from the island for safe disposal in New Zealand.

The meeting between the Hon. Tibanga Tarata MP, Mr. Taulehia Pulefou (MELAD), the PacWaste Plus programme team, Mr. Bradley Nolan and Mr. Lance Richman, confirmed the buildings to receive abatement work, the scope of the activities, and confirmation of the training to be provided to residents of Banaba Island.

The Hon. Mr. Tarata said, “We thank SPREP for commencing the work of making our island safer to live on, we believe this is the first step in the process, with the removal of this asbestos, and the development of a strategic plan for the management of the remaining asbestos materials, we believe we will secure additional donor support to secure a healthy and safe future for the Banaban People”.

The PacWaste Plus Programme Manager, Mr. Bradley Nolan said, “we are excited to work with the Banaban people on this important activity, the removal of asbestos material from their hospital and school buildings is the first step in addressing the legacy issues of asbestos contamination on the island”.