Zambia's Luanshya Copper Mines (LCM) has laid off all of its 1,740 miners after it halted operations in November following a fall in copper prices, officials said on Wednesday.

LCM spokesman Sydney Chileya told journalists in Luanshya, 300 km (186.4 miles) north of Lusaka, that management started issuing letters terminating employment on Tuesday.

Copper prices have been falling for quite some time now and we have reached a stage where cost of production far exceeds the revenue the company is generating. Consequently, your services will no longer be required, LCM said in a letter to one miner.

Mine Workers Union of Zambia (MUZ) general secretary Oswell Munyenyembe said the company was due to start paying compensation.

The money (has been deposited) in the banks and they are just concluding certain transactions in readiness to pay our members, he said.

LCM halted operations at its Chambishi Metals Plc, Zambia's largest cobalt producer, and at its Baluba copper mine, citing operating difficulties due to the global financial crisis, which has seen copper prices fall.

The LCM had earlier suspended the development of the $354 million Mulyashi copper mine, which was due to start producing 60,000 tonnes of copper cathode in 2010.

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