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Energy

UPDATE 1-China's Dec coal imports triple on month as customs restrictions ease

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BEIJING, Jan 14 (Reuters) - China’s coal imports rebounded in December after sliding for nine consecutive months, as Beijing relaxed import restrictions for some utilities to help meet surging demand for heating during harsh winter weather.

Coal arrivals were 39.08 million tonnes last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Thursday, more than tripling from 11.76 million tonnes in November and rocketing from only 2.77 million tonnes in December a year ago.

Increased inflows in December pushed full-year coal purchases to 303.99 million tonnes, the highest level on record, the data showed.

Chinese media reported in mid-December that the country’s top economic planner had granted approval to power plants to import coal without clearance restrictions, except for Australia, which accounts for about 40% of Chinese imports.

Chinese authorities had been imposing an unofficial quota policy aimed at maintaining coal imports at the same level as previous years in a bid to shore up the domestic mining industry. Prices of seaborne coal are typically cheaper than domestic coal.

However, frigid weather and robust manufacturing activity led to a surge in power consumption at a time when fuel inventories at utilities had fallen to an alarmingly low level.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Chen Aizhu; Editing by Kim Coghill and Kenneth Maxwell

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