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SHANGHAI, April 10 China's imports of coal in
2014 are expected to remain at the same level as last year, with
demand growth slowing and the domestic market already
well-supplied, a senior energy official said on Thursday.
China imported 267 million tonnes of coal for the whole of
2013, up 14 percent on the year, with many buyers seeking out
cheaper overseas supplies.
Ren Lixin, director of the coal department at the National
Energy Administration (NEA), told an industry conference that
oversupply also remains a problem for a sector struggling with
slowing demand and a campaign by the government to switch to
less polluting energies.
Oversupply was reflected in China's coal inventories, which
have remained at around 300 million tonnes since last year, up
from the traditional rate of 200 million tonnes, Ren said.
Tumbling prices, caused by weaker demand due to slowing
growth in China and a flood of cheaper imports, have forced many
smaller coal miners out of business, while a slew of majors,
including Shenhua Energy , China Coal Energy
and Yanzhou Coal, reported
losses for their 2013 results.
The sector has also faced heavy pressure from a nationwide
campaign to cut smog and promote cleaner energy sources like gas
and renewables, but Ren suggested China's war on pollution could
provide the impetus for the struggling sector to reform itself.
"It is important for the coal industry to transform itself
by becoming clean and green in order to survive this new era,"
Ren said that China would step up efforts to consolidate the
sprawling, fragmented sector this year and phase out inefficient
and small-scale production. China closed 1,200 small-scale mines
in 2013, but there were still around 6,300 that needed to be
shut, he said.
The NEA announced last week that it would close 1,725 small
coal mines this year, amounting to a total capacity of 117.48
million tonnes, with local governments under orders to shut all
mines with annual production capacity of less than 90,000
However, China's last five-year plan for the energy sector
still allows for the construction of an additional 860 million
tonnes of new coal production capacity over the 2011-2015
(Reporting by Fayen Wong; Editing by Richard Pullin)