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By Kwasi Kpodo
ACCRA (Reuters) - Newmont Mining Corp <NEM.N> plans to cut up to 600 jobs at its Ghana gold mine by June this year, its local manager said on Monday, citing an ageing facility and slumping gold prices.
Global gold prices slumped 28 percent last year. They have recovered around 4 percent so far this year, benefiting from risk-aversion on fears of capital flight from emerging markets following the U.S. Federal Reserve's move to taper its stimulus.
U.S.-based Newmont operates two mines in the West African country. Ahafo produced its first gold in mid 2006, and Akyem commercial production began last year. Both projects constitute around 20 percent of the company's core assets worldwide.
Adiki Ayitevie, Newmont's external affairs director, said the planned job cuts, mostly at Ahafo, was part of measures to readjust expenditures to the ageing milling rate.
"We are looking at 500-600 jobs. (Gold) prices are still volatile so the key objective is reducing labour force to align with reducing mining rate," She told Reuters.
Newmont last year sent home some 240 workers under a similar retrenchment at Ahafo which now has about 1,500 employees.
Ghana is Africa's second largest gold miner after South Africa. Other major firms operating in the country are AngloGold Ashanti and South Africa's Goldfields.
Adiki said Newmont was currently negotiating packages for those who will be affected by this year's job cuts.
"We are speaking to the union leaders and the government to seek consensus on the best way to carry out the exercise," she added.
The government said last month it had put on hold plans to introduce a windfall tax on mining profits to the delight of the mines but many see the move as undermining efforts to reduce the country's budget deficit and maintain rapid growth.
(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by David Gregorio)