SALT LAKE CITY — Kennecott Utah Copper laid off about 100 workers Thursday as a result of a massive landslide that crippled its mine last month, and intends to let more go before the end of May.
All of those given notice held salaried positions in a variety of jobs and roles across the operation, said Kennecott spokesman Kyle Bennett. They are eligible for a severance package and will receive access to employment services through the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
"Additional reductions in other parts of the business will take place later this month," Bennett said. "At this time, Kennecott does not have the total number of employees impacted by the slide."
Kennecott has looked to cut operating costs, including personnel, since the April 10 slide at the Bingham Canyon Mine.
"We have to make sure we're a financially sustainable business moving forward, and one of the ways in which we do that is to look at all costs across the business. But unfortunately, that also means people costs," Bennett said.
Wayne Holland, United Steelworkers international staff representative, said Thursday's layoff does not affect workers covered under the collective bargaining agreement. But, he said, union workers might be impacted in the next few days.
The employees released were not covered under the collective bargaining agreement because they are in supervisory positions that have the authority to administer discipline, he said.
Still, Holland said from the calls he has received, there were many tears shed at Kennecott.
"It is a very emotional day at the plants where those layoffs were announced. It's always difficult no matter who gets laid off," he said.
Kennecott has tried to minimize the layoff by asking workers to take vacation or unpaid leave. It also is offering eligible union workers a one-time $20,000 payout to take early retirement until May 31.
The company continues to develop plans for long-term operations, which are still several months away, Bennett said. Further changes to reduce costs will be required as those plans are finalized, he said.
Kennecott, which estimates 2013 production will drop by half, is delivering ore from parts of the mine not impacted by the slide and is sending stockpiled low-grade ore through the refinery process, he said.
"There is some fluctuation, but we are around the 50 percent mark we had estimated," Bennett said.