Ghana must realise bauxite benefits
VALCO was established in 1967 through the vision of the first President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, to produce primary aluminium for the local and international markets and also achieve the vision of establishing an integrated aluminium industry in the country.
It is worthy of note that the building of the Akosombo Dam was premised on the establishment of VALCO, which became a ready buyer of the energy to be generated by the dam. Thus VALCO’s establishment became the economic justification for the construction of the Akosombo
The expectation was that at its establishment, VALCO was going to play a key role in Ghana’s efforts to develop an integrated aluminium industry.
But that was not to be, as the company depended on imported alumina for its production, challenging the country’s plan towards an integrated aluminium industry.
We cannot blame VALCO for that because it was run purely on the business principles of maximising profit and doing away with waste. It made more business sense to import alumina than to mine and refine bauxite, which was more costly.
Again, the extension of electricity to many parts of the country and other businesses meant that VALCO could not continue to get the same amount of power, which led to the company shutting down some of its pot lines.
But a study into the viability of the VALCO Smelter has confirmed that if it is properly aligned to Ghana’s development agenda, VALCO will be the anchor of Ghana's integrated aluminium industry.
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The Daily Graphic notes that Ghana has about 700 million tonnes of bauxite deposits at Nyinahin, Awaso and Kibi, but the bauxite mined here is exported in its raw form, while VALCO, on the other hand, imports alumina to produce billets and ingots for export.
VALCO also produces molten (hot) metal which it supplies to Aluworks and other aluminium companies. It is currently the live wire of the downstream aluminium industry in Ghana through metal supplies.
We are aware of the employment benefits that will accrue to the country if the aluminium industry is integrated and the huge effect that it will have on the economy.
It is for these and many other reasons that the Daily Graphic commends the government for the plans being rolled out to ensure the realisation of an integrated aluminium industry.
We are happy to note that at the swearing-in last Friday of the board of the newly established Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development
Corporation, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, charged the members to ensure that Ghana realised the full potential and benefit of its bauxite resource.
We are also delighted that the board accepted the responsibility and assured the President that it would work to realise the goal for setting up the corporation.
Indeed, with the calibre of people on the board, with different expertise and varying experiences, we are sure the country is on course to achieving growth in the aluminium downstream business.
We, however, want to remind the board that power is the main challenge that affects the utmost delivery of VALCO, resulting in the company operating at 20 per cent capacity most of the time.
We urge members to dig deep into their repertoire of knowledge and experiences to fashion policies that will enable the country to generate enough power that can sustain an integrated aluminium industry.