Capstone Mining Corporation says it will begin laying off employees at its Minto copper mine in early April unless copper prices start to rise.

It's part of what the Vancouver-based company calls a "temporary closure" of the mine, located 240 kilometres north of Whitehorse.  

"Our job is to watch the market and see if we can mine longer," said Ron Light, the mine's general manager.  

"Right now we kind of have a stop point of April 2017, but I've seen markets change quickly so we don't know. We're going to keep working at everything we can to get every bit of ore while it's still economical."

Light says underground operations will be the first to close, probably in April.

Then the open pit mine will shut down near the end of August.

The mill and other operations would close in April 2017, leaving a care and maintenance crew at the mine site.

Light says that, despite uncertainty about the mine's future, morale at Minto remains high.

"Work hard and try to keep our head above water in tough times," he said.  "We've got a great group here and so we're going to continue to do that."

As of late 2014, Minto employed 282 people, including contract employees, according to Capstone.