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Phosphate Mining

Volume 934: debated on Thursday 30 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what are the total benefits, stated both in £ sterling and in Australian dollars, that have accrued to the Crown in the Gilbert Islands from Banaban phosphates since 1920;(2) what is Her Majesty's Government's estimate of the total benefits, stated in £ sterling and in Australian dollars, which will accrue (

a) to the Government of the Gilbert Islands and ( b) to the Banabans by the end of phosphate mining if there is no change in the existing division of phosphate revenue as between the Gilbert Islands Government and the Banabans.

Phosphate payments made by the Board of British Phosphate Commissioners from 1st July 1920 to 30th June 1976 were:

Gilberts GovernmentBanabans
$A67,066,000$A11,848,000
£42,717,000£ 7,546,000
The following calculations of payments from 1st July 1976 to the end of mining are based on estimates of future phosphate prices, of remaining phosphate reserves on Ocean Island and of production costs:
Gilberts GovernmentBanabans
$ A29,945,000$A9,601,000
£19,073,248£6,115,287
The current exchange rate has been used.In addition, the Banabans are currently receiving from the Gilbert Islands Government certain adjusting payments under arrangements agreed in 1976 as a result of the increase in the price of phosphate.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what is Her Majesty's Government's estimate of the total benefits, stated both in £ sterling and in Australian dollars, that accrued (a) to Australia (b) to New Zealand and (c) to the United Kingdom as a result of Banaban phosphates having been sold below the world market prices between 1920 and 1966;(2) whether, and in what respect, Her Majesty's Government disgaree with the estimates submitted in evidence to the High Court of Chancery by the Banabans of the benefit accruing to Australia and New Zealand as a result of Banaban phosphates having been sold below world market plices between 1920 and 1966.

In the recent legal actions, the Crown made clear that it did not accept that phosphate from Ocean Island was sold below world market prices or that benefits arose as suggested. It has never been established to the Government's satisfaction that there was a reliable "world market price" for phosphate during the period mentioned. The Crown did not accept the evidence on these matters which was put by the Banabans to the court and itself put forward expert evidence in considerable detail in reply.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what were the average prices both fob and off Eastern Australian and New Zealand ports, and what were the average phosphorus (P205) contents in the years 1928, 1947 and at the latest available date of (a) Makatea phosphate, (b) Christmas Island (Indian Ocean) phosphate and (c) Banaban phosphate.

A good deal of information on these matters was collected in connection with the recent legal actions in the High Court. I am having a search made of this material to see whether the points of detail requested by the hon. Member are recorded and I will write to him.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in what proportions he estimates the 10 million Australian dollars as an ex gratia payment to the Banabans from funds held by the British Phosphate Commissioners would, in the normal course of events, have accrued to the respective Exchequers of the United Kingdom. Australia and New Zealand.

The proportions in which the funds held by the Board of British Phosphate Commissioners on behalf of the three partner Governments would fall to be distributed are as yet undetermined.