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AngloGold Ashanti to lay off thousands of Ghana workers -unions

ACCRA (Reuters) - AngloGold Ashanti will lay off thousands of workers at its Obuasi gold mine in Ghana and cease underground production for up to 24 months, mining union leaders told Reuters on Friday after talks with the company.

Representatives of the Ghana Miners Union (GMU) and the Professional and Management Services Union (PMSU) said they agreed with decisions announced by the company at a meeting in Obuasi on Thursday and said they hoped production could resume later.

"It just came to light that they are gong to lay employees off to put the Obuasi under care and maintenance and to bring it back in 18-24 months," PMSU secretary Samuel Dwamenah Gyimah said.

AngloGold did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The century-old Obuasi mine has not made a profit for a decade, partly because of heavy operational costs, and has required bailouts from head office. It has also been hit hard by a slump in gold prices in 2013.

"Cutting jobs is not a pleasant thing to do, but in this case we all believe and have agreed that it is the better evil. The other alternative is to allow the situation to deteriorate further and one day the Obuasi mine will be no more," Prince Ankrah, general secretary of the GMU said.