Flag of Nauru

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Nauru's phosphate deposits began to be mined early in the 20th century by a German-British consortium; the island was occupied by Australian forces in World War I. Nauru achieved independence in 1968 and joined the UN in 1999. Nauru is the world's smallest independent republic.


Oceania, island in the South Pacific Ocean, south of the Marshall Islands

Geographic coordinates:

0 32 S, 166 55 E


total: 21 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 21 sq km

Area - comparative:

about 0.1 times the size of Washington, DC

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm


tropical with a monsoonal pattern; rainy season (November to February)


sandy beach rises to fertile ring around raised coral reefs with phosphate plateau in center

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location along plateau rim 61 m

Natural resources:

phosphates, fish

Land use:

arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2001)

Natural hazards:

periodic droughts

Environment - current issues:

limited natural fresh water resources, roof storage tanks collect rainwater, but mostly dependent on a single, aging desalination plant; intensive phosphate mining during the past 90 years - mainly by a UK, Australia, and NZ consortium - has left the central 90% of Nauru a wasteland and threatens limited remaining land resources

Geography - note:

Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia; only 53 km south of Equator


12,809 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

Nauruan 58%, other Pacific Islander 26%, Chinese 8%, European 8%


Christian (two-thirds Protestant, one-third Roman Catholic)


Nauruan (official, a distinct Pacific Island language), English widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes

Government type:



no official capital; government offices in Yaren District

Administrative divisions:

14 districts; Aiwo, Anabar, Anetan, Anibare, Baiti, Boe, Buada, Denigomodu, Ewa, Ijuw, Meneng, Nibok, Uaboe, Yaren


31 January 1968 (from the Australia-, NZ-, and UK-administered UN trusteeship)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 31 January (1968)

Legal system:

acts of the Nauru Parliament and British common law

Economy - overview:

Revenues of this tiny island have traditionally come from exports of phosphates, but reserves are now depleted. Few other resources exist with most necessities being imported, mainly from Australia, its former occupier and later major source of support. The rehabilitation of mined land and the replacement of income from phosphates are serious long-term problems. In anticipation of the exhaustion of Nauru's phosphate deposits, substantial amounts of phosphate income have been invested in trust funds to help cushion the transition and provide for Nauru's economic future. As a result of heavy spending from the trust funds, the government faces virtual bankruptcy. To cut costs the government has called for a freeze on wages, a reduction of over-staffed public service departments, privatization of numerous government agencies, and closure of some overseas consulates. In recent years Nauru has encouraged the registration of offshore banks and corporations. In 2004 the deterioration in housing, hospitals, and other capital plant continued, and the cost to Australia of keeping the government and economy afloat has substantially mounted. Few comprehensive statistics on the Nauru economy exist, with estimates of Nauru's GDP varying widely.

Labor force - by occupation:

employed in mining phosphates, public administration, education, and transportation

Agriculture - products:



phosphate mining, offshore banking, coconut products

Exports - commodities:


Exports - partners:

Japan 37.9%, India 34.5%, South Korea 13.8%, Australia 6.9% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

food, fuel, manufactures, building materials, machinery

Imports - partners:

Australia 63.3%, Indonesia 10%, Malaysia 6.7%, US 6.7% (2003 est.)


Australian dollar (AUD)

Telephones - main lines in use:

1,900 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

1,500 (2002)


total: 30 km
paved: 24 km
unpaved: 6 km (1999 est.)

Ports and harbors:


Merchant marine:



1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Military - note:

Nauru maintains no defence forces; under an informal agreement, defence is the responsibility of Australia

Illicit drugs:

offshore banking recently stopped, remains on Financial Action Task Force Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories List for continued failure to address deficiencies in money-laundering control regime