By ZACHARY MATSON
A bankrupt copper mine near Kingman sent layoff notices to more than 350 employees Monday, citing a failure to sell the mine as the final straw resulting in the reductions.
Workers at the Mineral Park Mine, about 15 miles northwest of Kingman, began showing up at Mohave County’s one-stop career center with letters in hand that said Monday was their last day of work. The county had not received prior notice of the layoffs.
Nicole Moon, a spokesperson with the Arizona Department of Economic Security, said Mineral Park Inc. informed the state Monday that the layoffs would affect 383 employees.
Not all employees were notified as of Monday night, because they could not be reached, according to Steve Lawson, Mineral Park Inc. human resources manager. He said the reductions would be phased in over eight weeks as the mine’s operations were curtailed. Ultimately, the mine will enter “maintenance and care” mode, so it can be used again if the company’s financial situation improves.
“We are focusing our efforts to find a new place and support these folks in time of distress,” Lawson said. “I want to take care of these folks… these are good people.”
Susie Parel-Duranceau, the county’s community services director, said over the coming weeks the county will hold “rapid response orientations” to help the workers develop resumes, look for other jobs across the country and identify unemployment and other benefits they qualify for.
“In the last 16 years, this is probably one of the biggest layoffs that we will be reacting to for one company,” she said.
Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson said large companies often provide the county notice a month or two before major layoffs, allowing the county to educate workers about resources before they lose their jobs.
“It would have been nice if we would have been given some advanced notice, so we could be preparing for it,” County Supervisor Buster Johnson said.
The mining company, which filed for bankruptcy in August, had been attempting to sell the copper mine but, according to one of the layoff letters, the sale fell through.
“While the company would have preferred to provide more notice of the mine and mill closing, unforeseeable business circumstances have prevented it from doing so…” Lawson wrote in the letter. “Unfortunately, management has just learned that the sale process will not result in any offer to acquire the company…”
Earlier this month, Mineral Park had asked the county to reduce its $14 million-plus tax bill to help ease a potential sale. But county supervisors balked at the offer, requesting more information about the taxes and how the county factors into the company’s debt priorities.
“The circumstances surrounding whether the county will be able to obtain part, all or some of the taxes owed are still up in the air…” county manager Mike Hendrix said. “It could have a tremendous impact on the county and the taxing districts.”