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Kennecott laying off 200 workers

By Jasen Lee@JasenLee1 Mar 3, 2016, 2:10pm MST

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FILE - Rio Tinto employee Zeb Kenyon talks with media while on a tour at Kennecott Copper Monday, June 22, 2015, showing areas of the dump sites that are going to be reclaimed with vegetation over the next several years. Rio Tinto Kennecott announced Thursday that 200 workers are being laid off due mainly to lost revenue caused by falling commodities prices — chiefly metals. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — One of Utah's most prominent employers is cutting its local workforce.

Rio Tinto Kennecott announced Thursday that 200 workers are being laid off due mainly to lost revenue caused by falling commodities prices — chiefly metals.

Spokesman Kyle Bennett said the company has faced a challenging market of late as prices for metals have declined significantly, in particular copper.

"This is going to impact all areas of the business," he said.

The company has already reduced costs dramatically through salary freezes, one-off asset sales, inventory reductions and increased production efficiencies, however, the cutbacks were still necessary, Bennett said. Following the layoffs, the company will have approximately 1,650 employees remaining statewide.

"The position we're in right now is that we're going to have to keep analyzing our business every single day," he said. "We're going to have to make difficult decisions like we did today to make sure that we're in a position to weather the challenges of the market."

He added that the "fundamentals of our business" are solid and the long-term outlook for metals is very strong. He said the company is focusing on maintaining the financial viability of its current mine operations in an effort to "carry this business out another 10 or 15 years."

"We're trying to be very proactive to anticipate what might happen," Bennett said. "We have to put our business in a position that we can succeed despite the challenges that we're facing."

Operating the second-largest copper production site in the United States, Rio Tinto Kennecott provides nearly a quarter of the country’s copper, according to its website. The Bingham Canyon Mine located in the southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley, is the largest man-made excavation in the world. Besides copper, Rio Tinto Kennecott produces precious metals, along with molybdenum and sulfuric acid.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: JasenLee1

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