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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Haul trucks carry up to 340 tons of material at Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine, Thursday, April 25, 2013.

SALT LAKE CITY — Union bosses and Kennecott Utah Copper signed an agreement Wednesday providing a $20,000 payment to longtime workers who opt to retire in the face of impending layoffs.

About 270 workers are eligible for the incentive offered until June 1, but it isn't yet known how many will accept it. Those workers also would receive their full pensions.

"The more people that take that, the fewer people we'll have to let go later in the month," said Kyle Bennett, Kennecott spokesman.

Kennecott announced last week it intends to cut jobs as a result of a massive landslide April 10 that slowed operations at its Bingham Canyon Mine. The company has not said how many workers will be let go or when the layoff will occur. It expects copper production to drop 50 percent this year.

The company and the unions also agreed to allow eligible workers to take early retirement, said Wayne Holland, United Steelworkers international staffing representative.

Bennett said as Kennecott lays off workers in one of the plants across its operation, it has the option to recall them to fill roles in other facilities. The company anticipates doing that with a number of people to reduce the overall layoff, he said.

Meantime, Holland said talks regarding additional ways to lessen the impact and restore the mine to full operation are ongoing.

"It's been an intense week," he said. "It's not likely to get easier as we move into the end of May and early June."

Kennecott previously asked 2,100 employees to take vacation or unpaid leave as a way to reduce costs.

At least one company doing work at Kennecott has already cut its workforce due to the landslide. Mining construction contractor Cementation laid off 45 miners in late April.

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