The Aluminium Industry in Ghana
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a. History and Background
Bauxite, the raw material of alumina was first discovered in Ghana in 1914 in the Atewa Range near Kibi in the Eastern Region by Sir Albert Kitson, a renowned Geologist. In 1928, the British Aluminium Company was granted a concession to mine bauxite at Awaso in the Western Region. However, it was not until the 1940’s that further exploration and mining really began. At present, the ore is still being mined only at Awaso even though major bauxite deposits occur at Kibi, Nyinahin and Ejuanema. The Government has also recently signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with ALCOA of USA and ALCAN of Canada over the Kibi and Nyinahin bauxite deposits. The main objective of the MOU is the development of an integrated aluminium industry in the country.
b. Industry Structure
Aluminium has one of the most complex processing chains of all metals, with four major production steps leading from the raw material bauxite to raw aluminium sheets and profiles. The major steps in aluminium processing are
- bauxite mining
- refining of bauxite into alumina
- smelting of alumina into raw aluminium ingots
- processing or casting of aluminium ingots into sheets, coils, and profiles.
The processed aluminium is the input for aluminium goods ranging from packaging material, automotive parts and construction elements to household goods.
Worldwide, 10 vertically integrated global companies dominate about 70 percent of the global production capacity. The key success factor in the aluminium industry is low cost production, which requires access to different sources of input material, mainly bauxite and electricity across the globe. The complexity of the production process and the importance of having access to the right resources are the main reasons for persistent vertical integration across the industry.
Ghana is home of almost all major production steps in aluminium processing, but not in an integrated form. While bauxite is exported to smelters in Scotland and Canada, alumina is imported from Jamaica and the US for the local smelter, Volta Aluminium Company Limited (VALCO). Aluworks is the only company that processes or casts aluminium ingots in Ghana and provides one of the vital links in the chain in aluminium processing in the country.