BINGHAM CANYON MINE — Kennecott Utah Copper employees have questions after an announcement Thursday stating that layoffs were scheduled for May.
The announcement marks the first time in 10 years that major layoffs were planned for Kennecott. Managers and union leaders met Friday afternoon to try to find a way to reduce the impact of the layoffs and to determine the number of employees to be laid off.
Within days of the massive slide on April 10, it became clear some jobs would be lost, but now mine workers are realizing that major cuts are becoming a reality.
Kennecott states that the production levels over the next year will be cut in half, which suggests half of the operation staff could be laid off, though officials haven't confirmed a number.
"We don't know that yet," said Kennecott Utah Copper spokesman Kyle Bennett. "As we continue to assess the business and our plans moving forward, we will have a better understanding of that in the coming weeks. Right now we don't know."
The unknown is causing many Kennecott employees to worry. Union leaders fear the layoffs will affect several departments, including the smelter, refinery and concentrator.
"When we see the numbers and what the impact is, we will also have discussions about we might be able to move people or keep people around for, key tasks that need to be performed," said United Steelworkers President Wayne Holland.
Although the number of layoffs is unknown, new information was revealed Friday about 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel and mining explosives being buried in the pit during the landslide.
Kennecott is developing a recovery plan once it's safe to enter the pit.
"We have not been able to get into the area," said Kennecott environmental manager Kelly Payne. "And we don't know the condition of the either these fuel stores or the equipment. We don't believe that this represents any hazard to public health or the environment."
Both the company and the union are hopeful the layoffs will be short-term, but the employees are bracing for the difficult economic times ahead.