The Export of Bauxite from Ghana

The Republic of Ghana is located on the west coast of Africa and is richly endowed with salt and gold mines, a fact that gives it its other name – Gold Coast. While the country has one of the world’s best oil reserves, its economy is driven mainly through the export of various materials such as timber, diamond, manganese, cocoa, gold, and bauxite.

History of Bauxite in Ghana

First discovered in 1914 in Ghana by Sir Albert Kitson, bauxite is an ore and the main source of aluminium. Though the British Aluminium Company gave approval for the mining of Bauxite in 1928 at Awaso in the country’s western region, the exploration and mining works started only in the 1940s. Ghana has substantial deposits of bauxite in regions of Ejuanema, Nyinahin, and Kibi, though most of them remain unexploited with mining activities mainly undertaken in Awaso.

Ghana was allowed as a member of the International Bauxite Association in November 1974. Ghana Bauxite Company has been working on the mining site in Awaso since 1941, which is said to have enough reserves to last for more than three decades. Other bauxite reserves of Ghana are said to have reserves to last for more than a century.

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Effect of Bauxite Mining on Local Communities

Mining is one of the largest economic activities in Ghana, apart from farming. As mining sites are usually remote, companies have had to make huge investments in building infrastructure such as schools, roads, electricity and water supply and hospitals that have helped communities situated close to these locations.

However, due to the degradation of air, water and the environment due to mining activities, these communities have also been suffering. It has also been said that due to lack of development in Ghana’s mining industry, there is rampant poverty. Government policies have failed to protect people and communities from the negative impact of mining, which has worsened the poverty levels of the country.

The Present Scenario

There are large reserves of bauxite in Ghana; however, those have not been exploited to their fullest potential, with just half of its capacity being mined. Moreover, there have been major reductions in the amount of bauxite that has been shipped from Ghana. In 2011, there was a significant drop of 22 % as compared to the previous year and consequently, there has been a decline in the sales figures from the export of bauxite.

In addition, the failure of Ghana Bauxite Company in transporting bauxite to the Takoradi Port, situated 240 kilometres away from the company’s location in Awaso, has proved detrimental for its operations. The Western Rail Lines of Ghana are in a deplorable condition that is leading to heavy losses for the company over the past few years as it continues to use the more expensive mode, roads, to carry the ore to the port.

Future Prospects of Ghana’s Bauxite Industry

Though Ghana is one of the leading resources for bauxite, most companies export the raw material that negatively impacts the country’s economy. Ghana has significant potential to increase and expand bauxite extraction, as it has a rich source of hydro-electricity. Hydro-electricity is relatively cheap as well, which can be utilised to smelt aluminium. A recent study on bauxite mining in Ghana has also recommended that the government should make it compulsory for companies to set up a refinery plant, if they wish to pursue mining of bauxite.

Though Ghana is one of the largest exporters of bauxite, it fails to achieve the expected returns for the local economy, which if met could help the country and its people develop.

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