China's top economic planner called for sufficient coal supply to northeastern provinces to ensure energy security during the winter heating period.
The directive was given at a recent meeting held by the National Development and Reform Commission, attended by major coal, power and transport company officials and officials of related departments of Inner Mongolia and the three northeastern provinces of Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning.
The three northeastern provinces, once China's industrial engine, now need to buy coal in a large volume each year from Inner Mongolia and neighboring Russia.
They stepped up coal purchases from September, much earlier than in the last couple of years, as the region is facing a colder winter. The National Climate Centre has forecast an average drop of 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 Fahrenheit) in the Northeast – the coldest part of the country – compared to last year.
Ye Chun, a deputy secretary at the China Electricity Council, which represents the power industry, estimated the Northeast could face a shortfall in thermal coal of about 37 million tonnes.
The supply gap is highlighted this year not only because of the earlier-than-normal winter restocking, but also due to slowed coal production in Inner Mongolia following intensified corruption and safety probe.
In 2019, the three northeastern provinces bought about 160 million tonnes of coal from Inner Mongolia, dwarfing 26 million tonnes from Russia and 30 million tonnes from Shanxi.
Inner Mongolia is struggling to maintain steady and sufficient delivery this year, curbed by safety and environmental restrictions. In the first eight months, its coal production totaled 633.51 million tonnes, down 10.4% from a year ago.
To ensure coal supply for the Northeast, Inner Mongolia has strengthened coal production since the beginning of this month.
Most mines were heard to have kept normal operation during the golden week holiday in Ordos, the largest coal hub in Inner Mongolia. During October 1-10, the daily coal sales through Ordos Coal Trading Center broke through 2 million tonnes a day.
Wuhai and other coal-rich cities in Inner Mongolia also sped up coal production.
(Writing by Alex Guo Editing by Harry Huo)
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