Oil Report

UPDATE 1-Chinese mines halt loading coal for export -trade

(Adds details, quotes, background)

HONG KONG, March 3 (Reuters) - Chinese mines have stopped loading coal for export as Beijing has not issued 2008 export quotas in time, traders said on Monday.

Traders in Beijing said Chinese exporters were not allowed to load for export as the 2007 quotas expired at end-2007.

Without the 2008 quotas, also known as export licences, the miners could not ship even cargoes that had been contracted earlier, they said.

“Beijing hasn’t issued the licence. It’s March now. No coal can be loaded for export any more,” said one trader.

Referring to the annual session of China’s parliament, or National People’s Congress, which opens on Wednesday and lasts for about two weeks, the trader added: “If they don’t issue them tomorrow, they are unlikely to do so until after March 15 ... Most assume China won’t resume exports until after March 14.”

No officials were immediately available for comment at the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top planning body, or at Qinhuangdao, China’s main port for coal exports.

China’s retreat from coal exports since late January helped to push the benchmark thermal coal price to a record $150 a tonne early in February. It subsequently eased to $132.05, as the peak winter consumption season neared its end.

Industry officials at China’s top coal exporters confirmed that they had not yet received 2008 export quotas but declined to comment on the fate of the remaining export contracts, sealed last year.

Chinese coal exports have slumped since late January.

In an attempt to resolve a power crisis, the government told miners and others involved, including railways, to prioritise supplying power generators in south and central China. Soaring international prices for thermal coal since late last year had encouraged Chinese miners to sell more cargoes abroad, which aggravated a domestic power crisis caused by freak winter weather.

Coal stocks at Qinhuangdao climbed to 6.08 million tonnes by Monday. That included 211,000 tonnes for export, up from 185,000 tonnes on Friday. (Reporting by Nao Nakanishi; Additional reporting by Judy Hua in Hong Kong, Rujun Shen in Shanghai; Editing by Edmund Klamann)