Few Reasons to Get Excited about the Coal Mining Industry
The global coal industry is still plagued by pessimistic sentiment. Not only has the global supply glut in combination with sluggish global economic growth put serious pressure on coal prices (while China introduced stricter coal quality tests on thermal coal imports), but most countries are also placing more emphasize on cleaner energy sources, which further curtail demand for coal. Coal prices are currently heading for a decade-low with January 2016 coal futures now at USD $52.55 per metric ton on the ICE Futures Exchange.
Greenpeace recently said global coal consumption has fallen by 180 million tons in the January-September 2015 period from the same period last year.
China, which accounts for about 50 percent of global coal demand, normally consumes approximately 4 billion tons of coal per year. However, in the third quarter of 2015, coal consumed by the country's power plants declined 4 percent (y/y), while coal imports into the world's second-largest economy fell by a staggering 31 percent (y/y) over the first ten months of the year.
Meanwhile, in the USA, coal consumed by power plants is expected to plunge 36 percent compared to a decade ago. It was reported that more than 200 coal-fired power plants in the USA are to be closed.
Coal consumption in the Eurozone is also on the decline, although slightly. While coal demand from Germany and the UK falls, other markets (such as Spain and Portugal) show a growing appetite for coal due to the low price.
In India coal imports fell five percent (y/y) to 14.52 million tons in October as the government is eager to curb coal imports by opening a new coal mine each month in an effort to become self-sufficient in thermal coal within a three-year period. It was the fourth consecutive monthly slide and this trend is expected to persist as domestic coal production continues to grow. Although India has plenty of thermal coal reserves, the country will continue to import foreign coking coal (used in the steel industry).
To finish on a positive note, coal consumption in the Philippines is expected to surge in the next two decades. Last year, the Philippines consumed a record high 20 million tons and imported a record-high 15.2 million tons (mainly from Indonesia). Consumption in the fast-growing Southeast Asian economy may grow by an additional annual 10 million tons over the next 20 years as dozens of coal-fired power plants are currently under development. The country's annual coal production figure stands at 8 million tons. However, more than half of this is exported as the quality is not high enough for local power plants.
Indonesian Production, Export and Consumption of Coal:
¹ indicates forecast
in million tons
Source: Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI)
• Coal Industry Update Indonesia: Export, Production & Domestic Demand
• Overview of the Coal Mining Industry of Indonesia