Chinas coal imports are expected to further grow in the next few years, driven by robust domestic demand and the comparatively lower price of imported coal, experts said yesterday.
China overtook Japan as the world’s biggest coal importer in 2011, with 182.4 million tons imported, up 10.8 percent year-on-year, said statistics from the General Administration of Customs.
Japans coal imports, which had held the top spot for the last 30 years, fell 5.1 percent to 175.2 million tons last year, according to statistics from Japans Ministry of Finance Wednesday.
China will remain a major coal importer over the next few years, given that imported coal has certain advantages in price, Ma Zhongpu, chief analyst at commodity information portal chinaccm ultrafine mill, told the Global Times yesterday.
Currently, China mainly imports coal supply from Australia, Indonesia, Mongolia and Russia.
And at present Australian coal is sold at roughly $110 per ton, while domestic coal prices stand at about $130 per ton.
Ma pointed out due to a lack of infrastructure facilities, it has been hard to transport the mineral from western China to the eastern part. So, eastern areas, where large quantity of coal is consumed, tend to use more imported coal these years.
Experts said total coal imports are expected to top 200 million tons in 2012, which accounts for some 5 percent of Chinas total coal consumption.
But, Li Chaolin, an analyst from the China Coal Transportation Sales Society, said it is still unclear whether China will still keep the No.1 spot in coal imports this year.
Domestic coal prices have shown signs of decline recently, which could mean more consumption of domestic coal this year, said Li.
Average coal prices have shown a decline of 7 percent during the past two months, and Li said the average price in 2012 is expected to show a further fall compared to last year.
Unlike Japan who highly relies on imported coal, China has large domestic supply and prices have been the key factor affecting Chinas coal imports, said Li.

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