* Akyem gold reserves estimated at 7.2 mln ounces
* Newmont sees production start-up at end 2013
* Estimated to spend $700 mln - $1 bln in capex
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ACCRA, March 24 (Reuters) - Gold producer Newmont Mining Corp’s NMC.TO board has approved funding for its estimated 7.2 million ounce Akyem gold reserve project, the company said in a statement on Thursday.
Newmont’s director for investor relations Monica Brisnehan declined to say how much funding was approved, but pointed to previous numbers released by the company in February which estimated capital expenditure for the project at between $700 million to $1 billion.
“I caution you that we don’t want to reaffirm those numbers,” Brisnehan said by telephone from Toronto, adding that: “We are not putting the numbers out until Thursday (March 31).”
Brisnehan said Newmont will be hosting an analysts tour in Ghana next week.
The company has said the Akyem reserve is one of West Africa’s underdeveloped resources and has the potential to double gold output from the region.
“Right now for Akyem, we have 7.2 million ounces in reserves as of December 31, and 0.3 million ounces in non-reserve mineralisation,” Brisnehan said.
Newmont had estimated annual production output at 400,000 - 550,000 ounces in the first five years of production, a boost to Ghana, Africa’s second-biggest gold producer after South Africa with 2,97 million ounces in 2010.
The company said it expected production to come online either late in 2013 or early 2014. (Writing by Bate Felix; editing by James Jukwey)