GENEVA -Mining and commodities giant Glencore (IW 1000/9), burdened by debt and a commodity price crash, announced Friday it was slashing its worldwide output of zinc by a third.
"The main reason for the reduction is to preserve the value of Glencore's reserves in the ground at a time of low zinc and lead prices, which do not correctly value the scarce nature of our resources," the miner said.
Glencore, which claims to be one of the world's largest miners and producers of zinc, said it was slashing zinc production by 500,000 tons across its operations in Australia, South America and Kazakhstan.
The company said its operations at Lady Loretta in Australia and Iscaycruz in Peru would be suspended and operations at George Fisher and McArthur River in Australia and various mine operations in Kazakhstan would reduce production levels.
"These changes, which represent around one-third of Glencore's annual zinc production, will reduce fourth quarter 2015 mine production by approximately 100,000 tons of contained zinc metal," Glencore said.
The Swiss-based company, which employs around 181,000 people worldwide, acknowledged that "these changes, although temporary, will unfortunately affect employees at our operations."
A company spokesman said that around "1,540 people will unfortunately lose their jobs."
"This decision has not been taken lightly," the company said. It said it in coming days it would "engage with all employees" and provide support for those affected by the changes.
Zinc has a number of industrial applications, including as an anti-corrosive coating for iron and steel, a component for batteries and making metal alloys, and as a white pigment in paint.
Around 13.5 million tons of zinc is produced worldwide each year, according to the latest data from 2013 from the International Lead and Zinc Study Group.
Glencore meanwhile insisted the decision would "ensure that our zinc operations are sustainable well into the future, providing jobs in the communities where we operate and returns to shareholders."
"Glencore remains positive about the medium and long term outlook for zinc, lead and silver prices," it said.
The company's share price has meanwhile plummeted 60% since the beginning of the year, and has already faced wild fluctuation in recent weeks amid investor fears that sinking commodity prices would affect its ability to meet outstanding debt obligations.
Most resources-linked firms have taken a hit in recent months as the price of copper, aluminum, iron ore and oil have tumbled as growth in China's economy, the world's second largest, slows.
Zinc prices, which had fallen by nearly 30% since May, shot up 8 % after Glencore's announcement.
Glencore has been particularly badly hit because of its huge $30-billion debt load, even after the firm this month raised $2.5 billion via a share issue as part of a vast plan to restructureits finances.
Glencore has already mothballed output at two copper projects in Africa, and on Wednesday closed a platinum mine in South Africa, cutting more than 800 jobs.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015