Banaba Island in the Pacific.

Banaba Island in the Pacific.

Paradise lost

Once rich in phosphate, the Pacific island of Banaba is now largely uninhabitable after decades of mining destroyed its landscape and buildings were left to rot.

While growing up in the nearby Fijian city of Suva, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific academic Dr Katerina Teiwa knew much about Banaba but never visited.

"The community around Suva would gather and would celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of Banabans in Fiji in 1945," Teiwa says.

"I was lucky enough in 1997 to make a trip to Banaba.

"It's a very difficult place to get to now.

"I was doing my Masters thesis on Banaban history and I was excited to visit this place I'd heard about as a child. It was like looking at a post-apocolypic zone.

"The landscape of Banaba is this field of really stark, grey pinnacles. The mining removed the soil between the pinnacles so the landscape looks like people have taken bites out of it."

In this video below, Teiwa discusses the human cost of the island's mining activities, which were geared to help farms in Australia and New Zealand.