December 31, 2015 / 1:37 PM / 4 years ago

Zambian copper miner Chibuluma to slash staff, output

A truck exits the mine after collecting ore from 516 metres below the surface at the Chibuluma copper mine in the Zambian copperbelt region, January 17, 2015. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia’s Chibuluma Mines Plc plans to lay off just over half of its employees and cut output at its Chibuluma South mine by 40 percent as it grapples with low copper prices, it said on Thursday.

The miner, majority-owned by South Africa’s Metorex, said it planned to lay off 263 of 514 its employees in the first quarter of 2016.

Monthly output at its Chibuluma South mine is to be cut to approximately 27,000 tonnes of copper ore from 45,000, it said.

“The company is in a loss-making situation which, if left unaddressed, may force the company to suspend its operations permanently,” it said in a statement.

“The company has made arrangements for a significant proportion of the employees affected to be taken on by the contractors who will carry out the outsourced services,” it said.

An electricity shortage and weaker copper prices due to slower growth in China have put pressure on Zambia’s mining industry, economy and currency.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange has shed a quarter of its value in 2015 and last month touched a 6-1/2 year low of $4,443.50 per tonne. [MET/L]

Reporting by Chris Mfula; editing by Jason Neely

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