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Ghanaian salt

The Ghanaian salt industry as of 2009 produces between 250,000 and 300,000 tonnes of salt annually. However, it is underachieving in terms of production capability. The Ghana Export Promotion Council (GEPC) has identified the sector as an important one to aid the diversification of Ghana's economy, and the Ghanaian government is currently within the process of developing the industry.[1]

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Economic benefits

Ghana has the production potential of 2.2 million tonnes of salt annually. Economists in Ghana believe the nation's salt industry represents a potential source of revenue from Nigerian purchasers who currently rely on Brazilian imports.[1]

The GEPC has requested that the Commonwealth Secretariat establish a framework in Ghana to coordinate the development of the salt sector in the country. As a result, a team of consultants have conducted many interviews and seminars and undertaken market analysis with a realistic strategy and targets.[1] While developers realise that Ghana will never be a leading world producer, the proponents believe that the development of the salt industry in Ghana will be important to the economy and the overall economic development of western Africa in supply.[1] The salt can also be used to make chemical products which historically western Africa has not been capable of making. In 2002, the Minister of Mines, Kwadwo Adjei-Darko spoke at a salt mining site in Mendskrom, near the Weija Barrier, about increasing production in Ghana:

"Besides, it is equally important that we add value to the salt and think of converting it into other chemical products to enable us meet international competitors like Brazil and Australia who have dominated the West African market. Our capacity is low, sometimes let us involve partnership, which would be of interest to the nation. If we developed the salt industry through the private sector, it could become a major exporting commodity that would bring in more foreign exchange for Ghana, which may even superseded what Nigeria is earning in oil today."[2]

Extraction

One of Ghana's salt industrialists, Crown Sea Salt Limited, uses several methods in the production of salt, including the solar evaporation of seawater, solar evaporation of brine from underground wells or boreholes, solution mining, natural brine of lakes, rock mining, and the vacuum salt production. In Ghana, as in many countries, the most common method of extraction, being the most cost-effective and productive, is solar evaporation, using brine from the sea or underground wells or boreholes.[3] Pambros Salt Production Limited, the largest salt producer in western Africa (producing 350,000 tonnes of salt in Ghana and Senegal in 2002) have aspirations to capitalize on government support and investment in increasing production to capacity.[2]

Environmental impact

Commercial salt production in Ghana has raised concerns about the impact on wetland environments and the effect on waterbirds in coastal lagoons in the country. The non-tidal lagoons of the Ghanaian coast are an important habitat for wintering Palaearctic migrant waterbirds of the East Atlantic and the Mediterranean flyways which has conflicted with comparatively low-scale salt production in the lagoons since ancient times.[4] The problem is that peak salt production occurs during the dry season of November-April which overlaps with the non-breeding season of migrating shorebirds. Under Ghana's government plans to dramatically develop the salt sector in the country, new saltpans are regularly being created on the coastal wetlands which are believed by environmentalists to be a threat to wildlife.[4]

However, the direct impacts of production on waterbirds have not been widely assessed as of 2009.[4] Although the shallow ponds created for salt production may provide suitable feeding habitats for fish-eating birds, it has also reduced the exploitable area available to the birds feeding exclusively on invertebrates.[4] The Journal of African Ornithology, however, has conducted comparative studies into two saline coastal wetlands that have been developed into saltpans and two others that are also saline but have no saltpans and as evaluated their findings. They reported on the quality of lagoon water, benthic macroinvertebrates and waterbird communities characterising these wetlands obtained from samples collected between September 2005 and April 2006.[4] Although turbidity was significantly higher in the non-saltpans, the other physico-chemical parameters studied were not significantly different between the two wetland types and in fact scored a Sorenson Index value of 0.88, indicating a high similarity.[4] Also, the studies indicated that waterbirds feeding on a wide range of food types showed no significant differences in their population densities so the limited studies that have been conducted into the effects of salt production on birdlife have to date not demonstrated an immediate serious adverse effect.[4]

References

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