Australian coal industry says China market matters less than before, even if import ban ends

Australia would benefit from a lifting of China’s ban on its coal but any gains would likely be modest as miners have largely redirected supplies elsewhere, analysts said.

Shares of ASX-listed coalminers shot up on Wednesday after reports China was considering lifting its restrictions on coal imports from Australia from April. The ban was imposed in mid-2020 amid deteriorating bilateral relations that have since begun to improve.

nvestors pared back their expectations of a significant boon for exporters on Thursday. Whitehaven Coal shares ended the day down 1.5%, while New Hope fell 0.7% and Yancoal closed flat. The overall market rose 0.6%.

The Albanese government said the resumption of normal trade across the board between Australia and China was “in both countries’ best interests”.

“The Australian coal industry has been successful in finding alternative markets,” a spokesperson for the resource minister, Madeleine King, said.

China-Australia relations have warmed since the change of the federal government in May, with the foreign minister, Penny Wong, last month making the first visit to Beijing by an Australian minister in three years.

China has its own motivation to resume coal imports after a severe drought reduced hydropower last year, resulting in a depletion of stockpiles of the fossil fuel.

Beijing’s imposition of restrictions on commodity imports from Australia – such as coal, wine and barley, but not iron ore – resulted in exporters finding alternative markets.

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