Where does Australia’s metallurgical coal go?

A Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) report has revealed that more than 60 per cent of the world’s seaborne coal exports come from Australia, with second place hardly keeping its head above water.

The report detailed the quality and importance of Australian coal and was the second in a series called ‘Best in Class: Australia’s Bulk Commodity Giants’.

Written by industry expert Anthony Le Bas, the report, titled ‘Australian Metallurgical Coal: Quality Sought Around the World’, details how more than 96 per cent of Australia’s metallurgical coal is exported overseas, with India, China and Japan three of the key markets.

MCA chief executive officer Tania Constable emphasised the importance of the report and its subject matter in a global context.

“Metallurgical coal is a critical component for steel making and Australia’s quality attracts customers from around the world from Asian countries such as India, China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all the way to the EU,” Constable said.

Australia is easily the largest exporter of metallurgical coal in the world, with exports worth more than $40 billion. After our 184 million tonnes exported annually, the next largest exporter in 2019 was the United States with 50 million tonnes.

The report stated that in 2019, India accepted the most metallurgical coal imports from Australia, at over 45 million tonnes, while China sat just above 40 million tonnes.

Australia’s workforce relies heavily on the production of metallurgical coal and Constable highlighted just how important it is.

“Australia’s world-leading metallurgical coal mines provide jobs for thousands of Australians in regional areas and contribute significantly to the local and national economy, and these areas are well placed to continue producing metallurgical coal for years to come to support global growth and infrastructure development,” Constable said.

While the report said only 30 per cent of global steel is made using an electric blast furnace (EFC) as compared to 70 per cent in a blast furnace (BF), both the report and Constable acknowledged how the need for low-carbon technologies in the coal and steel making industry is becoming a higher priority.

“MCA member companies are already taking action to further reduce emissions from the use of metallurgical coal,” Constable said.

“The accelerated deployment of existing low emissions technologies and greater research and development of new and emerging technologies will be required to ensure the world is able to achieve the emissions reduction goals of the Paris Agreement.”

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