EXPORT prices for NSW thermal coal are well up despite volumes falling slightly last year, the Minerals Council of NSW has said after appraising annual statistics provided by the industry body Coal Services.
The council’s chief executive, Stephen Galilee, said NSW thermal coal exports topped 140 million tonnes in 2017, only just below 2016 volumes and more than 15 per cent higher than they were in 2012. Thermal coal is used in power stations, while higher-energy coking coal – often found in the same deposits – is used in steelmaking.
“Coal is our state’s most valuable export so it’s great for the NSW economy that demand for our thermal coal continues to be strong,” Mr Galilee said.
But environmental group Lock the Gate Alliance was less sanguine about the figures, saying it was “profoundly worrying that this region must hang on the release of international coal industry data for its well being”.
Lock the Gate co-ordinator Georgina Woods said the Hunter had suffered a lot “for the prosperity of the state” and it was not “fair or wise” to destroy further arable land in pursuit of an industry with an uncertain future.
The minerals council and other mining peak bodies are adamant that coal consumption will increase in the coming years and Mr Galilee said China’s consumption of NSW thermal coal rose by almost 10 per cent last year to 23.7 million tonnes.
Japan remained the state’s biggest market, with thermal exports rising 2.4 per cent to 64.3 million tonnes, or about 45 per cent of the market. Next came China, with about 17 per cent of the market, followed by South Korea – up 0.6 per cent to 20.1 million tonnes, and Taiwan, which fell from 20.9 million tonnes to 19.1 million tonnes
Coal remained the state’s most valuable export, accounting for 18 per cent of exports by value.
While tonnages were relatively flat across the board, Mr Galilee said the price had risen sharply in the 18 months to December. The average free-on-board (FOB) price of coal went from $68.27 in June 2016 to $114.82 in Deember 2017, the highest price since December 2011.
Total NSW coal exports, including coking coal, topped 163 million tonnes, down from 170 million tonnes the previous year. Mr Galilee said most of the fall was in coking coal exports through Port Kembla.
“After a very tough few years, the ongoing strong demand for NSW thermal coal over 2017 is encouraging, as is the recovery in coal prices that has boosted activity and confidence across the NSW mining sector,” Mr Galilee said.
“Growth in exports to our second largest market, China, along with significant growth across emerging markets in Southeast Asia demonstrate the significant economic opportunities for NSW, provided we get the policy settings right here in NSW.
“The NSW Government has made progress in meeting its commitment to halve planning assessment time frames for major mining projects. While there is still more be done, if we can lock in policies that support NSW mining, we’ll build on these positive export figures, attract investment and create more jobs in our state.”
READ MORE: Port of Newcastle coal exports