Ghanaian Export of Manganese Ore

Ghana is a major producer of manganese carbonate ore, an essential element needed for processing stainless steel. Mining began in 1916, controlled by the American- owned African Manganese Company, and this continued until 1975, when production was taken over by the government owned National Manganese Corporation. The period of highest production was in the mid 1970's, with production peaking at 638,000 tonnes between 1974 and 1975, but production then declined, due largely to significant inflation in Ghana.

In 1983, new legislation was introduced which eased legal restrictions, and brought in industry regulation, with a push to attract foreign investment into mining. The manganese operation was overhauled, with developments made to the mine infrastructure, and overseas investors (deemed as 'private') brought in to invest $85m in the industry. This resulted in an increase in production, rising to 247,000 tonnes in 1990.

What is the current position?

There is one operational manganese ore mine in Ghana, Nsuta-Tarkwa, which is located at Tarkwa Banso in the Western Region, utilising an opencast, strip-mining method. In 2006 the mine produced 1.6m tonnes, of which 52% was exported to Ukraine, 37% to China, and the remainder to Norway. The Ukrainian Privat Group has now possesses managerial rights to the Ghana Manganese Corporation (GMC), viewed by some as a move to ensure stability of supply an intention to revise existing contracts has been announced.

The Ghanaian government has continued trying to attract foreign investment, with measure such as tax breaks, off-shore banking etc, but concern has recently been expressed at a government plan to levy a windfall tax.

What is the environmental impact?

Manganese is toxic, and known to cause 'manganism'. This irreversible neurological condition produces symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease, in which patients exhibit impaired responses, mood swings, irritability, and repetitive behaviours similar to OCD. The effectiveness of medical treatment decreases after three years, and prolonged exposure increases the severity of symptoms.

Manganese causes poisoning via the air if there is an ambient concentration of over 5mg, which is a particular risk due to the open-cast method. Manganese can also be water-borne, and poisoning can occur if wells and boreholes become contaminated, with children being especially vulnerable.

What about the future?

The Ghanaian industry remains buoyant about future prospects, despite some reservations about the surrounding infrastructure e.g. unreliability of the rail transport, frequent disruptions to the power supply etc. It has stated a predicted 26m tonnes is available and expects production to continue until 2027. However, some feel that the industry is heavily reliant on external support and expertise, especially as there is something of a 'brain drain' with many Ghanaians moving abroad once qualified.

It is also uncertain how changes to the global economy will affect export, with amendments to Ukrainian contracts and the projected slowdown in Chinese economic growth.

Environmental issues are also of significant concern. In October 2012 the Ghanaian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for monitoring the impact of mining activity, held a public hearing in Tarkwa-Banso, where it reported on a draft impact report. In 2010 the GMC had begun explorations in the 'North C Pit' at Nsuta-Tarkwa without permission, with a view to re-mining in that area. Concerns had been raised about the proximity of the local village to the mine; new regulations state that residents living within 500m should be relocated (understandable, given the danger of manganese contamination), and discussions are ongoing about whether only those residents within 500m should be relocated, which would fragment the local community, or whether the whole village should be moved.


Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved