Ghana is set to create more than 2.3 Million jobs under the Integrated Aluminium Project, which has been described as the key to growing the economy with a capital injection of about 8billion dollars.
Under the Integrated Aluminium Project, an Aluminium refinery is to be constructed to refine the rich bauxite deposit at Nyinahin into alumina, would then be processed into aluminium by VALCO, and sold to the several downstream industries as aluminium ingot and billet.
Sources close to government say serious consultations have already begun to identify suitable investors to lead the project.
It is believed the project hold the key to transforming Ghana’s economy by bringing in benefits, far more than the nation currently receives from oil.
The Nyinahin mine with bauxite deposit of 700MT, valued at $17.5billion , is estimated to create about 98,000 jobs whiles the aluminium refinery expected to produce about 350metric tones of alumina, will generate about 19,000 jobs.
However, this can only be achieved if sustainable power supply is dedicated to the Integrated Aluminium project via VALCO.
Indications from downstream companies like Aluworks, Western Rod, Tema Steel, packaging companies and the numerous aluminium accessories manufacturing industries show a high eagerness for the sector to take off to reduce the cost of importation of raw materials and offer the convenience.
According to the Business Standard, an online business cite, aluminium production is 30-50% dependent on electricity therefore emphasized the need to use hydro sourced power to support aluminium smelters.
The decision to dedicate hydro power to alumimuim smelting is not only crucial to reduce the cost of generation but also important if Ghana is committed to creating more jobs and reduce the number of unemployed youth.
For instance in the United Arab Emirate, government has invested over $12million in new water and electricity projects in the next five (5) years to supply enough power to both industrial and residential population which has grown to 4.5million.
Though the option of coal though possible is slightly expensive and not the best decision in generating aluminium.
However, the issue of aluminium generation cannot be discussed without looking at the issue of pricing of power. Over the years, VALCO and the Volta River Authority have been caught tango over appropriate price to pay for power without collapsing industry, especially since Ghana government acquired 90% of the local smelter from Kaiser Aluminium.
Compared to other countries, Valco pays higher power tariffs of cents 7.5 at a capacity of 40,000 tonnes; when Chinese smelters with high production volumes of 6million tones per annum pay cents 5.75.
Elsewhere in Africa, Alumimium smelters pay an average of cents 2.34, Canada, cents 2.2, and Europe, cents 3.49
Industry experts believe that if the Ghana is serious about this Integrated Aluminium Project, a national policy to decide on pricing for the sector is key, as a conscious effort to develop, expand and create the over 2million jobs for the nation’s youth.
Whiles Ghana awaits a policy direction to support the integrated aluminium project and the numerous opportunities available, countries like Kata and the United Arab Emirates are busy attracting skilled labour from Ghana. Currently, more over 200 ex workers of VALCO and their families are currently working and living in these countries.
It is in view of these opportunities, the position of government not to close down VALCO but support it to lead the integrated aluminium project has been lauded despite pressure from the World Bank. The Bank suggested power be given to domestic consumers but the minister of Energy believes government can utilize power to generate more jobs.
One of the lead advocates of the Integrated Aluminium Project, and former deputy minister of Energy and Member of Parliament for Pru West. Dr. Kwabena Donkor expressed his excitement especially the use of Ghana’s salt and limestone resources in Northern and Western region in the manufacturing of aluminium.
He says benefits accrued from the project will extend to the development of railway infrastructure.
Another advocate of the project, Member of Parliament for Atwima Mponua, Hon. Asiamah, who believes the Nyinahin mine located in his constituency can create indigenous millionaires and several employment for the youth. He said it was in view of these numerous economic benefits that former President Kuffour negotiated the 100% takeover of VALCO as a key to transform the industrial sector.
Latest reports from the Commodities Research Unit, an independent authority on mining metal and fertilizers, quotes alumina FOB price at 321/t.
Experts describe the market potential of aluminium as huge, citing the booming local construction industry and the car international vehicle and air planes manufacturing companies as large consumers.
They emphasized that the high quality of Ghana’s aluminium, as a major advantage in gaining market share over others on the international market.