Alpha Natural Resources has informed around 1,100 employees working at its 11 affiliated surface mines and related infrastructure in West Virginia, US, about the proposed closure of the facilities and job cuts.

The redundancies are planned for implemention in mid October.

The company said it is idling operations due to competition from natural gas, the weak demand for coal, falling prices and tougher regulations set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discourage coal-fired power plants in the country.

"Some Central Appalachia mines haven’t been able to keep-up with the fast pace at which coal demand has eroded and prices have fallen."

The affected operations are Highland Mining’s Superior, Reylas, Freeze Fork and Trace Fork surface mines in Logan county; the North surface mine in Mingo and Logan counties; and Black Castle Mining’s surface mine and Independence Coal’s Twilight surface mine in Boone county.

Alex Energy’s Edwight surface mine and Republic Energy’s Republic and Workman Creek surface mines in Raleigh county, Pioneer Fuel’s Ewing Fork 1 surface mine in Kanawha and Fayette counties are also planned for closure.

The affected mines have produced 4.2 million tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal in the first half of the year.

The company said that industry forecasts show the coal production from the Central Appalachian region in eastern US will decline to less than half of the 2009 output, by 2015.

Alpha Natural Resources president Paul Vining said: "Many mines in the region have done a great job finding ways to reduce costs and remain economically viable in this unprecedented business climate, but some Central Appalachia mines haven’t been able to keep-up with the fast pace at which coal demand has eroded and prices have fallen.

"So, our operations managers have to take a hard and serious examination whether they can sustain a number of mines and related operations by finding additional cost reductions and whether the business will be there to support them in the year ahead."

West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin said: "My administration will closely monitor the situation and we stand ready to provide whatever assistance our miners and their families may need during this difficult time.

"We recognise market trends can play a part in these potential closures; however these actions also show the real-world impact of the regulatory environment in which industry must operate.

"Today’s announcement, in part related to power plant closures as a result of past EPA regulations, is why we remain concerned about the EPA’s current proposals regarding CO2."