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China, US, India energise coal mining after record 2016 drop

China, US, India energise coal mining after record 2016 drop
The world's biggest coal users China, the United States and India have boosted coal mining in 2017, in an abrupt departure from last year's record global decline for the heavily polluting fuel and a setback to efforts to rein in climate change emissions.

Mining data reviewed by The Associated Press show that production through May is up by at least 121 million tons, or 6 per cent, for the three countries compared to the same period last year.

The change is most dramatic in the US, where coal mining rose 19 per cent in the first five months of the year, according to US Department of Energy data. Coal's fortunes had appeared to hit a new low less than two weeks ago, when British energy company BP reported that tonnage mined worldwide fell 6.5 per cent in 2016, the largest drop on record. China and the US accounted for almost all the decline, while India showed a slight increase.

The reasons for this year's turnaround include policy shifts in China, changes in US energy markets and India's continued push to provide electricity to more of its poor, industry experts said. President Donald Trump's role as coal's booster-in-chief in the US has played at most a minor role, they said. The fuel's popularity waned over the past several years as renewable power and natural gas made gains and China moved to curb dangerous levels of urban smog from burning coal.

Whether coal's comeback proves lasting has significant implications for long-term emission reduction targets, and for environmentalists' hopes that China and India could emerge as leaders in battling climate change. While the US reversal is expected to prove temporary, analysts agree that India's use of coal will continue to grow.

They're divided on the forecast for China over the next decade. Industry representatives say the mining resurgence underscores coal's continued importance in power generation, though analysts caution its long-term growth prospects remain bleak.

The US, China and India combined produce about two-thirds of the coal mined worldwide, and the latter two nations also import coal to meet demand. India's production expanded even during coal's global downturn.

"If you look at those three countries, everyone else is irrelevant in the scheme of things," said Tim Buckley, energy finance director for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

To curb Oz BHP's leverage, SAIL eyes coal imports from Canada, SA

New Delhi: India's largest steelmaker SAIL is keen to cut down its dependence on Australian firm BHP Billiton for coking coal import and is readying a Plan B with countries like South Africa and Canada on mind.

"SAIL is a buyer of around 12 million tonnes (mt). Out of this, 9-10 mt come from Australia (BHP Billiton). The supply by BHP is fluctuating. Sometimes it is not able to supply on time. As a result, SAIL is looking at other options," an official in the know said.

SAIL, he said, is exploring options of importing metallurgical coal from nations like South Africa and Canada, the official said.

"Recently, some of the companies from South Africa and Canada met a senior official in the steel ministry on the issue," the official said further.

An e-mail query sent to BHP Billiton went unanswered by the time of filing this report.

Other than Australia, SAIL sources coking coal from countries like New Zealand, Mozambique and the US. In 2017-18, the state-owned company is planning to import around 10-12 mt of coking coal, a vital ingredient in the steel-making process.

SAIL happens to be a major customer of CIL's metallurgical coal too.

In January, CIL arm Bharat Coking Coal had raised the price of coking coal by about 20 per cent. Another subsidiary Central Coalfields went for a similar hike this month.
Agencies

Agencies

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