Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have cut 400 jobs, or 75 per cent of the workforce, at their $6 billion Resolution copper mine in Arizona.
The cuts will slash the mine’s budget from $200 million a year to $50m, as the mine struggles to secure a land access deal to expand operations, The Australian reports.
Since 2005 Resolution has been sought a land-swap deal so it can fully explore a copper deposit, which is around 2km below the surface.
Mining is banned on part of the land due to the existence of camp sites and sensitive rainforest.
Resolution wants to swap 2100 hectares of “high-quality conservation lands” it holds for the 980ha of Forest Services land which contains the copper deposit.
So far the mine has been unable to seal a deal, despite eleven versions of the bill being submitted to the US Congress since 2005.
Last week Rio Tinto announced plans to cut over $4 billion in costs over the next two years in response to softening global demand for commodities.