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First Funding for Ghana - Volta River Hydroelectric Project, 1962

Ghana signed IBRD Articles of Agreement on September 20, 1957 and became the 64th member of the Bank. The Bank approved the first finding for Ghana on February 8, 1962 for Volta River Hydroelectric Project (Loan 0310).

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Testing a transformer at a substation at the Volta Aluminum Company Ltd. (VALCO) plant at Tema, Ghana, 1968. An overall view of the pot line at the Volta Aluminum Company Ltd. (VALCO) at Tema, Ghana, 1968.

This project consisted of a dam and power plant at Akosombo, 50 miles above the mouth of the Volta River, a transmission system to supply power to the cities of Accra and Tema, and a 700 mile transmission network to supply the principal cities, towns, villages and mines of Southern Ghana. The project also included construction of an aluminum smelter nearby to serve as the primary consumer of electricity generated.

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Construction work proceeds on the dam site, 1963 Two Ghanaian surveyors take a reading at the dam site, 1963 Pouring molten aluminum into steel molds at the VOLCA plant at Tema, Ghana, 1968

The main dam, of rockfill construction, was to rise 244 feet above river level and 370 above its foundations, with a crest length of over 2,000 feet. It created a reservoir about 300 miles long with a surface area of 3,275 square miles. The dam made available to Ghana the abundant supply of power which was necessary for the economic development of the country.

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The Volta River Dam at Akosombo, Ghana, 1968 Construction site of the Volta River Dam at Akosombo, Ghana, 1963

A consortium of aluminum companies (VALCO) headed by Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation built a large aluminum smelter to be supplied by power from the Volta River Hydroelectric project under a long-term contract. Since Ghana’s existing level of demand did not warrant such a massive undertaking, the project would not have been feasible unless there was a major industrial consumer to make use of the electrical output. The construction and operation of the project was under the control of the Volta River Authority, an autonomous agency established in 1961 for this specific purpose.

Photo of the Month

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Testing a transformer at a substation at the Volta Aluminum Company Ltd. (VALCO) plant at Tema, Ghana, 1968. Workmen inside the control room of the Volta River Dam in Akosombo, Ghana, 1968 The intake structure from upstream side at the Volta River Project, 1965

In size and scope, the project ranked as one of the largest undertakings of its kind to date. It has also been considered as one of controversial projects, used by the Bank’s critics as evidence of the harmful effects of large dam construction.

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Construction site of the Volta River Dam at Akosombo, Ghana, 1963 A group of Ghanaians plying their fishing business at Tema in Ghana with the VALCO alumina storage dome in the background, 1968

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