Teck Cominco will temporarily shut down the Pend Oreille zinc mine near Metaline Falls in February due to low metals demand, laying off 165 employees.

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Teck Cominco will temporarily shut down the Pend Oreille zinc mine in February due to low metals demand, laying off 165 employees.

The Vancouver, B.C.-based mining company said today that reduced metal demand and the persistent weakness in zinc prices is resulting in the shutdown of the operations near Metaline Falls, Pend Oreille County.

The temporary closure follows a reduction of refined zinc production at Teck Cominco’s Trail, B.C., operations, the primary customer of the Pend Oreille’s mine production.

“The temporary shutdown of the Pend Oreille mine is a difficult decision, but we must act prudently to balance production with declining zinc demand,” Senior Vice President Mike Agg said in a statement.

“The employees at Pend Oreille have worked diligently to make the operation competitive and they are to be commended. However, today’s announcement is a reflection of the challenging business environment we face. We recognize the impact of this temporary closure on the employees and the community and we will do our best to assist in the transition.”

Teck Cominco, Canada’s largest base metal producer, recently 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.