London — Indian demand for US mid-volatile matter and premium hard coking coal imports grew in 2020 as strong steel and met coke fundamentals support India consumption rising to a new high in 2021 and 2022, according to Iman Resources.
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India imported 4.16 million mt of US met coal, down slightly from the 4.21 million mt in 2019. However, imports of US mid-vol HCC rose to 2.66 million mt in 2020, up 17% from 2019, Iman Resources FZ, a UAE-based coal and solid fuels trading group, said in a report.
India's US mid-vol imports have been higher than 2020 levels so far this year, with 236,165 mt in January and 282,423 mt imported in February, it said. In January, India imported 76,143 mt of US high-vol HCC, Iman said.
Major US miners supplying coking coals to India include Alpha Metallurgical Resources, Blackhawk Mining and Arch Resources, with international traders also active.
India imported 389,704 mt of premium low-vol HCC from the US in 2020, over double volumes of the grade imported in 2019.
In 2020, India grew Russian met coal imports to over 769,000 mt, from 300,820 mt in 2019, with an expansion in high-vol and semi-hard coking coals brought in last year, and less Russian mid-vol HCC grades.
Iman expects demand from merchant cokemakers to be strong in India, as margins improve, especially for merchant trade in the smaller West Coast market. Iman's research shows West Coast merchant cokeries see a higher dependency on Australian coking coals and limited US met coal consumed.
The domestic coke making industry is back in profit due to the high price of met coke and low price of coking coal, Iman said.
The group sees India's imports growing since September, with steel demand "in good shape."
Iman expects India's total demand of coking coal to hit 54.7 million mt/year, both in 2021 and 2022, calendar year basis, rising almost a fifth from 2020 import levels. In 2018, India's met coal imports peaked at 51.9 million mt.
Demand in India from steel mills projected to be 48.5 million mt/year, and merchant met coke and traded tons at 5.5 million mt/year, and non-steel industries absorbing the balance.
India's coking coal imports in 2020 fell 6.4% year on year to 45.65 million mt, with Australia as the largest supplier with 33.4 million mt, followed by the US, according to latest data compiled by Iman.