Indian steel mills have sourced have nearly three times more coking coal from Russia at 2.97 million tonnes (mt) for the first half of this fiscal (April–Sept) over H1 FY23 when sourcing was 0.87 mt. Most of the coal came at “favourable prices”, said a trade source.

On the other hand, sourcing from Australia – the biggest supplier globally- is down to one of the lowest in five years, barring H1FY22, to 17.74 mt in April–Sept period of this fiscal, down 8 per cent YoY.

According to Steel Ministry officials, Russia has emerged the third largest of supplier of coking coal to India and shipments in the first half of the year is amongst the highest over the last five years. Russia has displaced two other key supplier nations, Canada and Mozambique.

A major buyer of Russian coal has been PSU major SAIL. Sources said, while the PSU major received four shipments of coking coal (each shipment of 75,000 mt) in Q1FY24, four more shipments (totalling 300,000 mt) were expected in Q2FY24.

Coking coal is a key feedstock material is steel-making and India, the world’s second largest crude steel maker is also among the largest importer of the raw material.

As per data available from research firm, SteelMint, and other trade sources, Russian coking coal shipments during April – September of previous years stood at 1.30 mt in FY20, 1.55 mt in FY21 and 0.70 mt in FY22.

Australian Shipments Down

On the other hand, Australia, once the key supplier nation accounting for over 70 per cent of coking coal supplies to Indian steel mills, saw a decline with price of coking coal continuing to stay volatile and primarily because of being on the higher side.

From accounting for 74 per cent in H1FY20, it has steadily come down to 61 per cent in H1FY24. Similarly, supplies are also down from 21.69 mt in H1FY20, to 15.39 mt in H1FY21, rose sharply to 21.60 mt (primarily because of high demand from Indian mills) H1FY22 before falling back to 19.18 mt and 17.74 mt in H1FY23 and H1FY24, respectively, as per SteelMint data.

On Friday, Australian hard coking coal prices were hovering at around $366 per tonne, up 31 per cent over September’s $280 per tonne while it rose by nearly 50 per cent on a two-month basis ($246 per tonne in August).

Alternative Markets

Incidentally, India’s coking coal imports in H1FY24 have remained at similar levels, hovering at 29 mt mark. In fact, in absolute terms there was a slight decline of 0.7 per cent at YoY basis, 28.99 mt in H1FY24 vs 29.19 mt in H1FY23.

“There has been increased availability from domestic sources which saw some decline in imports, a marginal one though,” said a ministry official.

Meanwhile, Indian mills continued to explore new markets like Poland – 0.05 mt (first time in five years), while re-explored offers from New Zealand (0.06 mt) and Colombia (0.01 mt), SteelMint data show.