Australia accounts for the highest amount of China’s coal imports at 79.91 million tonnes. EndCoal.org photo by Max Phillips.

China’s coal imports from North Korea banned in February 2017

In 2017, China’s coal imports from nearby Russia and Mongolia rose significantly after China imposed trade sanctions against North Korea early last year, according to General Administration of Customs data released Thursday.

Reuters reports Russia exported 36.3 per cent more coal last year than in 2017.  In total, China imported 25.3 million tonnes from Russia.

Imports from Mongolia rose to 33.58 million tonnes, up 27.6 per cent over 2016.

The ban against North Korean coal imports was issued in late February, about one week after an intermediate-range ballistic missile was tested by North Korea.  After announcing the ban, China reported it imported coal from North Korea in August and September.

In 2016, North Korea exported over 20 million tonnes of coal to China, making it the fourth largest supplier following Australia, Indonesia and Mongolia.

“The majority of market share left by North Korea was grabbed by Russia, as mining costs in Russia are cheaper than in China’s northeastern region,” Cheng Gong, an analyst at the China National Coal Association told Reuters.

For the sixth straight year, Australia supplied the most coal to China in 2017 due to Beijing’s demand for high-grade supplies as the country strives to cut its air pollution.

According to Reuters, Australian coal has lower pollutants such as sulphides and ash and a higher energy value.  It is considered high-grade fuel compared to Mongolian and Indian coal.

Australian exports of coal to China in 2017 rose 13.4 per cent to 79.91 million tonnes.

As China struggled to heat homes early in the winter, Beijing eased some of its restrictions on coal use and boosted imports of the fuel, in late November.

In December, coal imports rose 3 per cent over November.

Thomson Reuters Supply Chain and Commodity Forecasts data shows China will import about 29.9 million tonnes of seaborne coal, both thermal and coking, up from 17.2 million tonnes in December and 19.1 million tonnes in November.