Rio Tinto Kennecott is reducing its workforce in Utah. Company officials say the layoffs have to do with the low price of metals.
Kennecott is laying off 65 salaried workers from support services. 40 employees will be moved into alternate roles and 74 open positions will not be filled. Company spokesperson Kyle Bennett says there are lingering impacts from the massive landslide that occurred in 2013 at the Bingham Canyon Mine. Two years later, workers are still removing debris from the site. Rio Tinto let go of 100 workers shortly after the slide. But Bennett says the major reason for this round of layoffs are the current low market prices for metals that they mine, including copper, silver, and gold.
“The outlook appears to be weak at least for the near term,” Bennett says. “As an organization, it’s important for us to be able to weather the uncertain conditions that we face, and part of it is adjusting our business to be more efficient, more cost effective.”
According to the Utah Foundation, the state’s exports are dominated by the precious metals industry, mostly gold. During Utah’s 2012 exporting peak, these metals accounted for 63% of total exports. Higher gold prices from 2011 to 2013 drove a large bump in the value of Utah’s exports. Since then, the total value of the state’s exports has decreased.