COVID-19 cases in Inner Mongolia affect ports, but coal imports from Mongolia set to increase
A coal mine in Ejin Horo Banner, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (north China), October 20, 2021 Photo: VCG
New cases of COVID-19 in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region are likely to affect China’s coal imports from its increasingly important coal supplier Mongolia, due to disruptions at some major ports, sources said on Wednesday, raising further concerns over coal supplies in China as officials moved in to deal with shortages and price hikes.
However, some ports have remained open for coal transport and the impact is likely to be temporary as China and Mongolia have intensified their coal trade cooperation. Mongolian Ambassador to China Tuvshin Badral told the Global Times on Wednesday that arrangements were being made by both sides to increase Mongolia’s annual coal exports to China by up to 50% from 32 million tons. currently.
Tuvshin Badral, Ambassador of Mongolia to China Photo: Yin Yeping/GT
Ceke Port, Inner Mongolia’s third-largest land port and a major port for coal imports from Mongolia, was closed on Wednesday after talks among local officials, people familiar with the matter told the Global Times.
The decision came after the local health commission said Ejin Banner in Inner Mongolia, which borders Mongolia, reported five confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and the port city of Erenhot reported three. Wednesday.
All movement of people and goods was halted at the port of Ceke on Wednesday, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Ceke Port is the only global trade channel of the Alxa League, which covers the Ejin banner, and is jointly operated by Gansu, Shaanxi and Qinghai provinces in northwest China’s Hui Autonomous Region. of Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. It is Mongolia’s main coal import port.
Last year, around 10.68 million tonnes of coal were imported through the port, the Global Times has learned.
Another major port, which is the largest road port in terms of imports – Ganqimaodu Port in Inner Mongolia – has been allowed to continue road freight transport, the same source said.
In recent days, the number of vehicles cleared daily has doubled from the previous 150 at Ganqimaodu Port, according to cnenergynews.cn. About 600 vehicles are expected to transport coal every day in the future, to eliminate the 8.37 million tons coal stockpile that has accumulated in an area in Mongolia by February 2022.
Due to the reported cases in Erenhot, road freight transport was halted on Wednesday in both directions via Erenhot port, two people familiar with the matter confirmed to the Global Times.
“But rail transport is permitted, with coal, iron ore and timber being imported without interruption,” a source said.
However, despite the short-term disruptions, China’s coal imports from Mongolia are expected to rise sharply given closer cooperation between the two countries and continued transportation efforts, officials said.
“Coal exports to China account for 80% of total two-way merchandise trade, which is a very high level,” Badral said in an interview on Wednesday.
More than 3,000 Mongolian drivers are engaged in cross-border coal transportation, he said. And in order to promote bilateral trade, the two countries are discussing the wider opening of rail freight transport in major ports.
“We look forward to the railway being completed and put into operation next year. After the opening of the railway, Mongolia’s coking coal exports to China are expected to increase by 10 to 20 million Currently, Mongolia exports 32 million tons of coal to China every year, which will increase by 50% after opening to rail traffic at the border,” the ambassador said.
Efforts to boost coal imports from Mongolia came after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told his Mongolian counterpart at a meeting on October 12 that China hoped to expand coal trade and cooperation with Mongolia to achieve mutual benefits and win-win results.
While China imports coal from several major suppliers such as Indonesia, Australia and Russia, Mongolia has become China’s largest coking coal supplier this year.
Coal imports from Mongolia accounted for about 10.5% of China’s total coal imports in 2020, according to calculations by the Global Times, and coal supplies from the neighboring country have contributed to China’s growing needs in recent years. days.
Electricity shortages due to limited coal supplies have prompted Chinese authorities to pledge all means necessary to curb irrational coal prices and increase supply, including increasing imports.
Irrational coal price hikes have caused a power shortage in China, pushing the country’s coal imports up 76 percent year-on-year to 32.88 million tonnes in September.
China’s top economic planner pledged on Tuesday to use all means necessary to intervene on coal prices, as the official stance hardens on coal prices that have put energy supplies at stake.