Indian steel mills have increased sourcing of “cheaper” coking coal from countries other than Australia, the largest supplier. While Russia emerged as one of the key sourcing nation with supplies for April – December period increasing by 133 per cent year-on-year, Indonesian supplies were the highest for the period under review trebling to 2.21 million tonne (mt) compared to 0.7 mt in the same period last year.

Russia incidentally is amongst the top coking coal suppliers, on par with Mozambique at 1.91 mt, while Indonesia moved up three spots – from number 6 to number 3, overtaking Canada in the process.

The US continues to be second largest supplier of coking coal at 5.95 mt for the April to December period, and shipments from that country went up by 157 per cent over the comparative period last year.

Decline in Australian supplies

Australia, on the other hand, saw a 15 per cent decline in shipments to India, at 26.95 mt. Shipments from Australia in the year-ago-period were at 31.86 mt, reports collated across trade and from different ministries like Steel, Commerce and Ports and Shipping show.

India, the second largest steel producer globally, incidentally is also the highest importer of coking coal, a key raw material for crude steel-making.

Traditionally Australia, the US, Canada and Mozambique have been key suppliers to India. While Russia and Indonesia figured among the top 10, they have not been seen on par with the big four, until calendar year 2022.

According to some steel millers, more-than-expected rainfall and flooding in Australia affected coal mining and transportation activities. This apart, sanctions on Russia imposed by Europe resulted in the latter buying more coal from alternative sources like Australia. These two factors led to Australian coal prices remaining high for most of the year.

“So looking for alternative sources was something that mills did. Mills did experiment with Mozambique coal, while Russian offers focused on the Asian market post sanctions, targeting specifically China and India,” a steel mill owner told businessline.

For December, all the six nations saw coking coal shipments increase.

Shipments from Australia stood at 3.22 mt, up 11 per cent over the same month last year; the US shipments rose 100 per cent to 0.45 mt, Indonesia saw shipments rise 280 per cent to 0.38 mt; followed by Canada and Russia at 0.25 mt each and up 47 per cent and 100 per cent, respectively. Incidentally, shipments from Mozambique were at 0.17 mt, up 42 per cent.

SAIL imports high

A report by SteelMint said, the PSU steel major SAIL imported the highest quantity of coking coal in 2022 at 15.9 mt, up 15 per cent y-o-y, followed by JSW Steel. SAIL’s imports in December increased 75 per cent month-on-month to 1.38 mt, followed by JSW Steel at 1.24 mt, up 10 per cent month-on-month.

The report added that in 2022, Paradip Port received the highest shipments at 9.81 mt. However, volumes fell by 7 per cent y-o-y. Shipments to Jaigarh and Haldia ports increased to 5.05 mt and 3.7 mt, respectively.