File picture: Ivan Alvarado

Lusaka - Zambia's Chibuluma Mines has reduced the number of employees it will lay off as it grapples with lower copper prices, opting to reduce output instead of outsourcing, it said on Friday.

The mining firm, majority-owned by South Africa's Metorex, a unit of China's Jinchuan, said in December it planned to lay off 263 of its 514 employees in the first quarter of 2016.

Chibuluma said in a statement that after consultations with labour unions and the government, the final number of employees to be declared redundant had now been reduced to 167.

“The company established that it would be more cost effective to reduce production levels, streamline operations and continue to run its operations without outsourcing,” it said.

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“Additional cost-cutting measures will continue to be executed to ensure that the business remains viable.”

Chibuluma said in December that it had arranged for a significant proportion of the employees it would lay off to be taken on by the contractors who would carry out the outsourced services.

An electricity shortage and weaker copper prices due to slower growth in China have put pressure on Zambia's mining industry, economy and currency.