China is reportedly delaying and even banning imports of Australian coal into its ports.

Reuters reported yesterday that ports in China had extended the clearing times for Australia coal from 5-20 days to 40 days since January in order to protect its domestic coal market. The port that had particular focus placed on it was Dalian port in Northern China, which accounted for 7% of China’s coal imports in 2018.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told Reuters: “The goals are to better safeguard the legal rights and interests of Chinese importers and to protect the environment.”

He also denied claims that there was a total ban on Australian coal, stating: “The ports in China are all receiving import declarations for imported coal, including that from Australia.”

Australia’s minister for trade, tourism and investment Simon Buckingham tweeted: “We welcome the confirmation from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that reports of a ban or country discrimination are false. We look forward to continuing to cooperate and work together to maintain our strong & mutually beneficial trading relationship.”

China is Australia’s second largest coal consumer, purchasing 89 million tonnes in 2018. Despite the reports, pricing for Australian hard coking coal rose by 3.8% today to just over $215 a ton.