Workers at Tara, Europe's largest zinc mine, will vote next week on proposals to prevent a closure of the site in Ireland with the loss of more than 700 jobs, union officials said on Saturday.

Tara's owner, Swedish copper and zinc miner and smelter Boliden (BOL.ST), has worked out a package with unions that would see overtime cut and a cap on bonuses at the site in Meath, which employs around 750 people.

Gerry McCormack, a trade union official, said workers would start voting on the package on Monday and the results would be known on Thursday.

Unions estimate that more than 2,000 people employed in companies that provide support services to Tara workers and the Tara site, around 50 km from Dublin, could also be at risk if it was to close.

Ireland's once-booming economy is haemorrhaging jobs as it slips into recession, with the number of people claiming unemployment benefit hitting a 15-year high of nearly 300,000 in December.

The unemployment rate is set to hit 10.2 percent this year from 8.3 percent in December and high-profile names such as Dell (DELL.O) have already announced layoffs.

If workers at Tara do not agree to the proposals the mine could be shut later this month with only a skeleton staff of around 30 people kept on to maintain the mine.

Some 2.7 million tonnes of ore are mined annually at Tara, which yield zinc and lead concentrates containing up to 200,000 tonnes of zinc and 40,000 tonnes of lead metal, Boliden's website said.

Boliden said last month it was cutting zinc production at its Finnish and Norwegian smelters due to falling demand.

Demand for zinc, used to galvanise steel for the car and construction industries, has declined sharply following a slowdown in the global economy.

© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved.