Fri, 08 Jul 2011

From: The Jakarta Globe

Hanoi. Vietnam, a coal exporter, is projected to import 6.5 million tons of the fuel annually by 2015 as its domestic supply dries up, a minister said.

This followed the first import of nearly 10,000 tons of Indonesian thermal coal this year as Vietnam grapples with a rising demand for power and is forced to buy electricity from southern China as part of measures to avoid outages.

“At the moment, the Industry and Trade Ministry only allows the import of certain types of coal with high economic benefit,” Deputy Minister Nguyen Thanh Bien was quoted by the official Vietnam News Agency on Thursday as saying.

“However, given a forecast of exhausting coal supply in coming times, we reckon that coal importing is necessary to ensure future development of the country’s energy security.”

Vietnam has been importing between 400,000 and 500,000 tons of coal per year in the past five to seven years, Le Minh Chuan, chief executive of state mining group Vinacomin, was quoted by several state-run newspapers as saying on Tuesday.

Last month, Vietnam received 9,570 tons of its first thermal coal shipment from Indonesia, opening a new supply source as it seeks to increase imports of the fuel, a Vinacomin official said.

“It is still the policy of the Industry and Trade Ministry to limit the export of raw materials, including coal,” Bien said in the state-run Tin Tuc daily, pointing to a fall in coal exports this year.

Countries such as China and India are increasingly turning to Indonesia’s low-calorie coal exports as a source of cheap power.

Vietnam exported 8.77 million tons of coal in the first half of this year, down 17.4 percent from last year, while January-June’s coal production edged up 0.7 percent from a year ago to 23.13 million tons, government data show.

Vinacomin said it has been buying coal from Australia and would widen the list of suppliers to include Russia, which it has been holding talks with but has not reached any agreement.

The state mining group has projected to produce 44 million tons of coal this year and export 16.5 million tons, unchanged from the output in 2010, when Vietnam shipped 19.23 million tons.