CARMEN Copper Corp., (Carmen Copper) announced yesterday it is letting go of 551 employees as part of the company’s comprehensive restructuring program.

In a disclosure to the local bourse, the company said the retrenchment is part of a “broad restructuring program the company is undertaking to ensure its long term viability amid current market conditions.”

“The global market for copper is experiencing an industry slump, with copper prices hitting six-year lows in 2015. The company does not anticipate these conditions to change in the near term,” the company said in its official statement.

“Across the world, many copper mines have closed down completely faced with industry-wide low prices. Carmen Copper, however will continue to operate on scaled-back operations until market conditions improve,” the company added.

Carmen Copper is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the listed Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. (Atlas Mining). It operates the Toledo copper mine covering 1,674 hectares in Toledo City, Cebu.

Atlas Mining, last April 6, announced it will reduce copper production by 33 percent in 2016 and 2017 due to the slump in copper prices in the world market. The management has approved a comprehensive plan to reduce mill throughput at the Carmen copper mine in Cebu province from its nameplate capacity of 60,000 tons per day (TPD) to 40,000 TPD.

The average copper prices dropped significantly from $3.11 a pound in 2014 to $2.49 in 2015 and to $2.11 in the first quarter of 2016.

The 551 affected workers comprise 15 percent of the company’s total workforce of 3,228.

The company disclosed that it has worked closely with the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) and labor unions involved.

“All employees are being treated fairly and given due terms. The company has a long term interest in the mine and the community of Toledo,” the company said.

In an interview yesterday, Department of Labor and Employment 7 Director Ezekiel Sarcauga said the agency will still validate the number of affected workers.

Dole got Carmen Copper’s retrenchment notice last May 4.

“We will still validate the issue and get more details of which jobs are affected. We will engage with the workers and determine which interventions we could provide,” said Sarcauga.

Retooling of skills through Tesda, employment referrals, and livelihood opportunities are some of the quick responses Dole will be providing to the displaced workers.

Under the Labor Code, workers should be notified 30 days before the effectivity of a retrenchment.

Carmen Copper’s comprehensive plan for restructuring involves scaling back production levels to 40,000 tons a day; reducing mine site pre-stripping for 2016 and 2017; lowering capital expenditures to focus on keeping the mine operational; and reducing all operating costs, which will affect 551 workers.

Despite these restructuring measures, the company, however, expressed it has a long term interest in the mine and in the community of Toledo.

“In the longer term, once copper prices increase, Carmen Copper will be able to resume higher production volumes and hire more employees at the mine,” the company said. “This situation is regrettable but we are working to ensure the viability of the mine for the long term.”

Atlas Mining registered a net loss of P814 million for the full year 2015, compared to a net income of P397 million in full year of 2014.