US coal miner closes eight mines, sacks 1,200 workers

US coal miner Alpha Natural Resources has axed 1,200 jobs and closed eight mines around Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield said the cutbacks were made in response to a "smaller domestic market" for thermal coal as the US turned toward natural gas and renewables.

Crutchfield said Alpha was in the process of restructuring its business away from the US market to focus on Asia's demand for thermal and metallurgical coal.

He said the staff cuts would start this Tuesday and continue till the end of the first quarter.

Earlier this year Bank of America analysts said Australian coal miners were set to "hurt the most" as US producers upped their focus on China.

"With US coal exports rising and grabbing share of China’s imports, Australia stands to get hurt the most, being the second-largest coal exporter to China (after Indonesia), in our view," they said.

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