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LUSAKA (AFP) — The drop in copper prices on the international market has triggered job cuts in Zambian mines with two companies announcing 584 planned layoffs, officials said Thursday.

Kansanshi Mine, in northwestern Zambia, said it would lay off 298 workers from the mine following the drop in commodity prices on the international market in recent weeks.

“Following our consultative meeting, we wish to put on record that we confirm that the numbers of labour envisaged for redundancy is 298,” said Ron Day, project manager for Kansanshi mine. The company is owned by Canadian First Quantum Mining Operations.

Workers would be given a 30-day notice as provided for in the law, he added.

Earlier, the Bwana Mkubwa copper mine near Ndola, north of Lusaka, announced that 286 miners would be laid off as a result of the low copper prices on the international market.

Copper prices have tumbled to their lowest points for more than three years, driven lower by weak demand from automakers and mounting concern about a worldwide recession.

On Thursday, copper for delivery in three months was selling on the London Metal Exchange for 3,404 dollars a tonne.

Zambia’s economy is mainly dependent on copper exports. With some of the world’s largest copper reserves, the metal accounts for 80 percent of Zambia’s export earnings.

The Zambian government said it was concerned with the growing job losses in the mining industry. It said the copper prices, though low, were not as bad as they had been portrayed by the foreign investors operating in Zambia.

Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved

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