Ecological Restoration and Development through a Circular Economy Approach to Mining: The Paradox of Nauru's Predicament


In this paper, we explore how, if managed properly, mining may provide an opportunity to convert natural capital to financial capital that in turn can catalyze more diversified growth and may even serve as a basis to restore natural capital. We do so by considering a particularly challenging case of a small-island state, Nauru, which has a very negative history of socio-ecological impacts of phosphate mining. Following rare field experience and detailed review of natural assets of the island, we contend that, even here, where mining had not realized development goals, there is potential to foster sustainable development trajectories from the country’s degraded environment. This paper presents an integrative approach that considers prudent use of Nauru’s remaining mineral resources towards an overall agenda of ecological restoration and economic diversification that will allow the island to prosper after the phosphates it has traditionally relied upon are depleted.


Professor Saleem H. Ali holds the Blue and Gold Distinguished Chair in Energy and Environmental Planning at the University of Delaware (USA); a Professorial Research Fellow at UQ and a Senior Fellow at Columbia University's Center on Sustainable Investment. He is a member of the United Nations International Resource Panel; the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and was chosen as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Professor Ali received his doctorate in environmental planning from MIT, a Masters in Environmental Studies from Yale University and a bachelors in Chemistry (summa cum laude) from Tufts University.


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