VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – Canadian metals miner Teck Cominco Ltd. is cutting 1,400 jobs around the world, or 13 percent of its work force, to help it deal with a global sell-off in commodities.

The Vancouver-based company, the world’s largest producer of zinc and metallurgical coal, said Thursday the cuts will also help eliminate redundancies after its acquisition of Fording Canadian Coal last year.

About 1,000 employee and 400 contractor positions will be eliminated by the end of 2009, with most of the cuts coming in the first quarter.

The company also said it will reduce coal production in 2009 to 20 million tonnes, due to declining global steel demand.

“Given continued economic uncertainty, a significant reduction in our work force is needed to further reduce costs and position Teck for both short and long-term competitiveness,” Don Lindsay, president and CEO, said in a statement. “Notwithstanding the substantial decline in commodity prices, this was a difficult decision and I want to thank the affected employees for their contributions.”

Sarah Goodman, director of corporate affairs, said there will be 550 layoffs in Canada and 475 in Chile.

Teck Cominco hopes the moves will save it about $71 million a year, and it will take a one-time charge of about $29 million for severance and other related costs.

Teck Cominco announced the $12 billion purchase of Fording Canadian Coal in July, just a few months before the global sell-off of commodities. There are doubts about the company’s ability to repay the debt on the deal, analysts say.

In December, Teck Cominco said it will temporarily shut down the Pend Oreille zinc mine in Washington state in February due to low metals demand, laying off 165 employees. The closure follows a reduction of refined zinc production at Teck Cominco’s Trail, British Columbia, operations, the primary customer of the Pend Oreille’s mine production.

The company has said it will suspend dividends, slash capital spending and sell assets to save more than a billion dollars as a first step to help pay down its debt.

National Bank Financial analyst Ian Howat said in a note to clients Thursday that the reduction in coal production is negative for the company and will lower earnings for the year. Teck had previously announced that its 2008 coal production will come in on the low end of its 23-to 25-million tonnes guidance range.

Teck Cominco’s shares fell 3 cents to end at $6.29 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock is down about 88 percent from a 52-week high of $53.68.


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