COKING COAL DAILY: Seaborne prices up amid Australian mining disruption, tighter import quota in Chinese city

Seaborne coking coal prices rose on Thursday February 21 amid a suspension of operations at a mine in Queensland, Australia and with the emergence of a smaller quota for imported coal in a major city in northeastern China.

An April-laycan cargo of a top Australian brand was sold at $215 per tonne cfr China to a Chinese trader via a miner’s tender during the day, according to various sources.

A cargo in the unbranded segment of Global Coal was traded at $210 per tonne fob Australia, sources said.

Apart from these, a March-loading shipment of second-tier hard coking coal also changed hands at $181 per tonne fob Australia, they said.

In China’s Liaoning province, customs authorities in the city of Dalian have informed the five ports under their jurisdiction that their combined quota for imported coal – thermal and metallurgical – for this year has been lowered to 12 million tonnes. This is down 25% from last year’s 16 million tonnes, two mill sources in northeastern China said.

“Customs authorities have not imposed a ban on Australian coal. The Port of Bayuquan can import 6.5 million tonnes of coal while the Port of Dandong can import up to 3 million tonnes this year,” an end-user source whose mill imported 5 million tonnes of met coal last year said.

A mill source in Shanghai noted that while there had yet to be any specific details regarding the tightened restrictions imposed by Dalian’s customs authorities, steelmakers would now have to pay a lot more attention to logistics.

“Logistical issues range from port congestion, to customs authorities’ requests for extra documentation, to a refusal to grant permission for the discharge of cargoes at certain ports. All these add up for us in terms of administrative processes, and sometimes, even costs,” he said.

“Such port restrictions have become one of the factors for us to consider when negotiating transactions with domestic and overseas sellers,” he added.

A southern Chinese mill source, while conceding that seaborne coking coal supply was indeed tight at the moment, said that end users in China would not be able to pay as much as $214-215 per tonne cfr China for top Australian brands.

“Buying activity among our downstream customers has not been very high. We are under pressure to lower our [steel] prices in March,” he said.

An East Asian mill source also reported lower downstream demand.

“The orders that we have received in January-February is only one-third of those during the same period last year. Current coking coal [spot] prices are too high for us,” he said.

Separately, Anglo American says it has suspended production at its Moranbah North operations following an accident involving a grader and a personnel carrier in the access drift close to the surface of the mine.

“The Queensland Mines Inspectorate investigation is under way and the mine remains in shutdown until operations can be safely resumed,” a spokeswoman for Anglo American said.

The Dalian Commodity Exchange’s most-traded May coking coal futures contract closed at 1,285 yuan ($191) per tonne on Thursday, up 19.50 yuan per tonne from a day earlier.

The most-traded May coke contract closed at 2,126.50 yuan per tonne, up 13.50 yuan per tonne for the day.

The Fastmarkets MB cfr China Premium Hard Coking Coal Index rose $9.64 per tonne to $212.60 per tonne while its fob Australia equivalent gained $7.77 per tonne to $215.09 per tonne.

The cfr China hard coking coal index increased by $2.25 per tonne to $191.40 per tonne while the fob Australia index is up $3.16 per tonne, at $183.71 per tonne.

The low-vol pulverized coal injection indices were unchanged, at $138.66 per tonne cfr China and $130.58 per tonne fob Australia.