AngloGold Ashanti, the world's No. 3 gold producer, said it plans to boost output organically and expects Colombian authorities to give a green light to resume drilling the La Colosa project.
AngloGold Chief Executive Mark Cutifani told Reuters he expected to receive support in about three months for AngloGold to resume drilling at its stalled La Colosa project.
Environmental officials in the Andean country halted exploration work at the site in the central Tolima province a year ago, saying the drilling threatened forest reserves.
Cutifani said he had just returned from a trip to Colombia.
I met the president, the minister for mines and the minister for the environment and we discussed the issue. We also made a presentation at the community and I expect within three months to receive support for drilling to go ahead, he said.
The mine near the town of Cajamarca would be the country's biggest gold project, and has estimated reserves of more than 12 million ounces. Production could start within five years, if the government gives the project the go-ahead.
On production, Cutifani said his company, which has around 21 operations across four continents, aims to boost output to 6 million ounces a year by 2013 and 7 million ounces by 2015, based on new mines and expansions of its mines around the world.
The group has forecast output at 5 million ounces this year.
Cutifani said the company was trying to chip away at its hedgebook. Cutifani has previously said AngloGold was using $900 as its view on gold for that.
AngloGold's forward sales are one of the biggest among its peers globally, but Cutifani wants the group to increase its exposure to rises in the spot price of gold.
Gold will trade between $900 and $1,000 an ounce this year, Cutifani said, in line with estimates by peers who see the gold price remaining resilient in the face of the global financial crisis due to its appeal as a safe-haven.
Spot gold tumbled to a six-week low of $882.90 an ounce on Wednesday and was at $889.10/890.70 an ounce at 1547 GMT from $914.20 late in New York on Tuesday.
NO MAJOR ACQUISITIONS
Cutifani said the company was not planning any bid acquisitions or disposals.
At this stage we don't plan anything big, only small transactions, he said without elaborating.
AngloGold agreed to sell its Tau Lekoa mine in South Africa for $59 million last month to smaller rival Simmer & Jack Ltd. in a bid to beef up its balance sheet, after selling its 33.33 percent stake in the Boddington gold mine project in Australia to Newmont Mining Corp for up to $1.1 billion.
On the exit of global miner Anglo American Plc, which disposed its last remaining shares in AngloGold, Cutifani said this was a significant move because the new shareholder had sent positive signals to investors.
Paulson & Co., the New York-based investment firm, bought Anglo's remaining stake in AngloGold for $1.28 billion, and said it was attracted by AngloGold's global expansion strategy.
AngloGold's stock rose as much as 3.4 percent on Wednesday on news of Anglo's exit.
It's a vote of confidence in AngloGold. The new shareholder believes in gold and in AngloGold and we are now his most significant holding in gold, Cutifani said.
This will boost investor confidence and shares of AngloGold, which have been trading at a 5-10 percent discount since Anglo said a couple of years ago that it wanted to sell its stake. (Editing by Sue Thomas)
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