Largest salt mine starts operations - Electrochem employs 3,000 workers
Africa's largest industrial salt production mine located in the Dangme East District in the Greater Accra Region has been commissioned.
The $88-million Electrochem Salt Washing Plant processes 650,000 tonnes of industrial salt per annum, mined from a 41,000-acre field, straddling at least 33 communities in the Ada Songhor Salt site.
Operating an initial 15-year lease, Electrochem, which employs more than 3,000 inhabitants from Ada and surrounding areas, is one of the companies to trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The plant, already in operation and producing at 99.99 per cent purity, has become the biggest in Africa, larger in acreage than the Walvis Bay of Namibia, which is about 16,700 acres hitherto known to be the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Production is expected to ramp up to around two million tonnes per annum by 2027 and the number of employees also expected to increase to 7,000 with the completion of the second phase.
To obtain a social licence to operate the salt mine which has been the subject of rancour and litigation for decades, Electrochem has provided communities in the catchment area with facilities and amenities including an Astro turf football field, roads and advanced GH¢3 million interest-free loans to traders and businesses.
Electrochem has also provided scholarships, health clinics, schools and potable water for the communities.
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who commissioned the multi-million dollar project yesterday, stated that the Electrochem salt mine was an example of what governmental policy, backed by strong private sector participation could achieve.
The President recounted how successive governments had tried without success to harness the full value of the Songhor Lagoon for the past 54 years and noted that under his government the project had become successful for the benefit of the residents of Ada and the citizenry.
“The man who is to receive the plaudits for the brilliance of what we are witnessing today is the courageous and excellent entrepreneur, Daniel McKorley. This is the first time in recent history that an indigenous businessman will own one of the biggest extractive industries in Africa,” he said.
“He is a shining example of what determination and perseverance can produce. McDan, Ayekoo,” President Akufo-Addo stated.
The President said for a project of such magnitude to thrive, it would require the support and backing of not only the government, but also the chiefs and people of the host community.
He extended the appreciation of Ghanaians to the Paramount Chief of the Ada Traditional Area, Nene Abram Kabu Akuaku III, and the people of Ada for supporting the project, saying “this gesture must be emulated by other traditional rulers in the country”.
The President expressed delight at the decision of the management of the company to construct its own refinery in addition to a port to be constructed not too far from the site for the purpose of exporting refined salt to the wider African market and other parts of the world.
President Akufo-Addo expressed the confidence that with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in operation, the expected $1 billion revenue to the company would be considerably surpassed.
The President also took note of the request of the Executive Chairman of the McDan Group of Companies, the majority shareholder of Electrochem, Daniel McKorley, for the construction of some major road projects leading to the mine.
“I will put these requests before the Minister of Roads and Highways and ensure that he does his best to construct the roads. I intend to take a personal interest in them,” President Akufo-Addo assured.
For his part, McKorley said the project had encountered many challenges, including misrepresentation and accusations levelled against him for many things, but said as a leader he remained focused and pushed on for the realisation of the dream.
“We, as entrepreneurs in this country, must be brave in humility to create the needed impact for our country because at the end of the day we have nowhere to go. This is where we were born, this is where we live and this is where we have to invest and make better,” he added.
Mr McKorley commended President Akufo-Addo, the chiefs, queenmothers and elders of Ada for their unflinching support.
Benefit for Africa
The Secretary-General of AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene, said the realisation of the mine would not only benefit Ghana, but Africa in general because it would help in the industrialisation drive of the continent.
He gave an assurance that the AfCFTA Secretariat would continue to work with the company to occupy the African market and halt the imports of salt from far away nations.