December 8, 2016 / 4:50 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-China Nov coal imports hit highest in 18 mths

* Nov coal imports reach 26.97 million tonnes

* That is up by a quarter from October

* Utilities replenishing stocks as winter bites

* Local prices surged after govt-enforced mine closures (Updating with detail, comment)

BEIJING, Dec 8 (Reuters) - China, the world’s largest coal buyer, imported its largest volume of the commodity in 18 months in November, customs data showed on Thursday, with utilities replenishing stocks to cope with higher winter demand.

November imports of 26.97 million tonnes were up a quarter from October and more than double the 12.45 million tonnes imported in the same month last year, according to figures from the General Administration of Customs of China.

Traders have scrambled to sell more coal in China, the world’s largest energy market, as domestic prices have staged a historic rally after government-enforced mine closures squeezed supply.

“I am not surprised to see the import rally in November. The price for domestic coal has been at a historically high level, whereas the price of foreign coal was relatively cheap,” said Wang Fei, coal analyst at Huaan Futures.

The buying spree may not last as prices have eased slightly so far this month after the government forced mines and utilities to sign long-term contracts at big discounts to the cash market, traders said.

The figures include lignite, a type of coal with lower heating value that is largely supplied by Indonesia.

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Reporting by Aizhu Chen and Muyu Xu; Writing by Josephine Mason

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