ANKARA – Turkish gold producer Koza Altin plans to start operating its second gold mine in early 2008 and later hopes to boost total production capacity to 500,000 ounces, the company’s deputy chairman said yesterday. «We plan to produce 200,000-250,000 ounces of gold before Gumushane starts its operations,» Tekin Ipek told Reuters in an interview referring to the second gold mine. Gumushane will add 150,000-200,000 ounces to the capacity. Koza is still studying feasibility of a third mine, which could possibly be located in central Turkey, he said. Currently running Koza-owned mines have a total 2.1 million tons of reserves, said Tekin. Gold prices have soared this year, hitting a 26-year high in May of $730 per ounce on investment fund buying. Even after a correction, the safe-haven metal is still trading around $580 an ounce. Canada-listed Eldorado Gold Corp estimates Turkey’s total gold reserves at 6,500 tons, making it potentially one of the world’s top producers. The company aims to expand its operations into Ghana if gold reserves there are confirmed, Ipek said. «Our geologists will carry out examinations in Ghana for six months. If they can confirm the declared reserves, we will start construction there,» he said. He said if everything went on track, then the mine in Ghana could start working in mid-2008. Tekin rejected accusations from some conservation groups that Koza pollutes the environment in its Ovacik mine near the Aegean Sea. «If we are damaging the environment, let them close us tomorrow. But we are not,» he said. Koza purchased Ovacik from US-based Newmont. It also purchased five mine licenses and three properties from Canada’s Eldorado for $5.5 million. Koza now owns licenses for gold exploration in 99 fields.