UPDATE 2-AngloGold cuts exploration budget, to restructure Ghana mine
* Exploration budget to be slashed by over half
* Loss-making Ghana operation to be mechanised (Adds details of Ghana plan)
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, May 19 (Reuters) - AngloGold Ashanti, Africa's top gold producer, said on Monday it would cut its exploration budget by more than half this year to focus on a few major projects and would restructure and lay off staff at its loss-making Obuasi mine in Ghana.
AngloGold's action follows a wave of cuts by mining companies around the world which have had to scale back exploration in the face of depressed prices and have been under pressure to rein in capital spending.
The gold price, for example, has fallen by a third since it scaled record peaks above $1,920 an ounce in September of 2011. It is currently fetching around $1,300 an ounce.
"The problem child in our portfolio is the Obuasi mine. The cash bleed rate is simply not affordable," AngloGold's chief executive Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, who is known as Venkat, told a media briefing after the company published first quarter results.
"It consumed $220 million in 2013. And it has consumed $40 million to date in 2014," he said.
Venkat said AngloGold was working with the government and the main mining union in Ghana to cut staff and bring in mechanised methods at the mine, which is over a century old and has long been a pillar of the industry in a country once called the "Gold Coast." Continuación...