China January Coal Imports Rise 56% From Year Ago, Customs Says

China’s January coal imports rose 56 percent from a year ago, according to data released by the Beijing-based General Administration of Customs.

China, the world’s biggest energy user, brought in 30.55 million metric tons of coal last month, the customs data showed today. The country purchased a record 35.11 million tons from overseas in December.

China has boosted coal imports as the government shuts domestic mines to improve safety. Accidents killed 1,973 people in 2011 and 2,433 in 2010, according to the State Administration of Work Safety. That compares with 48 deaths in 2010 in the U.S., the world’s second-biggest coal producer. Regulators will close about 5,000 mines this year, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday, citing the safety bureau.

“Recent intensive coal mine accidents are the direct reason for a boost in imports,” Liu Dongna, a coal analyst with Shandong-based energy consultancy Chem99, said by phone today. “This led to a halt of production in major coal mines, interfering with local supply.”

There have been five accidents in Shanxi Province, two in Heilongjiang and one in Guizhou as well as one in Southwest China in January, said Liu.

Today’s data didn’t specify the categories of coal. China started to include lignite in its customs statistics for the fuel imports in January 2012.

Stockpiles at Qinhuangdao, China’s biggest port for transporting coal, rose to 7.89 million tons as of Feb. 3, according to the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association. The price of benchmark power-station coal with an energy value of 5,500 kilocalories per kilogram was at 620 yuan ($99.41) to 630 yuan a ton, unchanged for a sixth week, the association’s data shows.

— With assistance by Sarah Chen

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.