Kennecott Announces Layoffs After Landslide

By PAUL FOY

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) â¿¿ A Utah mining company announced Thursday it plans to lay off some of its 2,100 workers because of a landslide that filled the bottom of a copper mining pit in the mountains west of Salt Lake City with millions of tons of rock and dirt.

Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. said the number of layoffs remains undetermined but they would take place during May, possibly followed by other cost reductions "in the coming months." Kennecott has halved its production goal for 2013 at Bingham Canyon mine.

"It is always difficult when jobs are lost because of the direct impact it has on individuals and families," Kennecott said in a statement late Thursday. "Our workforce is an important consideration in every decision that we make."

The United Steelworkers will open talks with company officials Friday on ways to minimize layoffs, said Wayne Holland, a union representative for more than 400 drivers, rock drillers and machinists, and others at a smelter and refinery. Holland said he will push for the company offer early retirement incentives for workers in their 50s and older.

"There isn't a scenario" for Kennecott to recover quickly from the slide, Holland said, yet "I can't imagine" the company would walk away from the disaster for good.

"This is still one of the most lucrative copper properties in the world," said Holland, who noted it also yields some gold, silver and other precious metals "as a nice bonus" and has generated as much as $1 billion in revenue a year.

Kennecott asked workers to take vacation or unpaid leave after the April 10 landslide. Many declined because of the fear of being furloughed indefinitely, Brandon Dew, business agent for Operating Engineers Local 3, said last week. The union represents about 200 shovel operators and bulldozer drivers at the mine.

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