* China coal output on track for 3rd annual drop in 2016
* Power demand in Nov at fastest in years
* Utilities' buying slows - analysts
(Recasts, adds details throughout)
By Meng Meng and Josephine Mason
BEIJING, Dec 13 China's coal miners ramped up
output in November, but production was still down year-on-year
and power consumption rose at its fastest pace in years,
underlining the government's difficulties as it tries to avert a
winter energy crisis.
The data was the strongest sign yet that miners are
struggling to comply with government orders to crank out more
thermal coal supplies for the power sector ahead of the busiest
and coldest months of the year.
Production in November fell to 308.1 million tonnes, up 9
percent from October, but still down 5.1 percent from a year
ago, the National Bureau of Statistics data showed.
The pace of output cuts year-on-year slowed compared with
double-digit percentage drops since March and analysts expect
data to register a rise in December, the first in at least 18
months, as fresh supplies hit the market.
But the data surprised some market followers after a senior
industry executive on Monday said output had grown
month-on-month and year-on-year and after a series of emergency
measures by the government to boost output.
Mining executives say increasing capacity or reopening idled
mines has been slow, particularly for smaller companies, as they
have to rehire workers and refurbish equipment.
"Production is recovering very slowly towards the year-end,"
said a Shaanxi Yulin based coal executive, adding that it takes
a long time to reopen a small mine.
Separate data on Tuesday showed monthly power consumption
rose 9 percent in November on a year earlier, the fastest pace
since February 2014.
The jump is partly due a vicious cold snap that gripped
northern China early last month and better-than-expected
Still, the combined numbers illustrate the task facing
Beijing as it scrambles to replenish supplies ahead of the cold
winter months and quell a months-long rally in prices, which
have doubled since May.
Some of the steps taken reversed major policies introduced
earlier this year aimed at tackling a glut and cutting the
world's top energy market's dependence on fossil fuels by
closing mines and limiting the number of operating days.
Forecasts of warmer-than-usual weather during the upcoming
peak demand winter heating days may offer some relief to power
companies, and the government.
Electricity producers have slowed their purchases this month
suggesting greater comfort with inventories after scrambling to
restock, analysts said.
Average stocks at the six largest utilities were 18.6 days
by Dec. 9down 1.2 days from the same period last month, data
collected by Fenwei Energy showed.
While on the surface falling inventories would be alarming,
the Fenwei Energy analysts said in a note it suggests
"downstream users are being cautious with purchases. The market
has obviously cooled down."
China's year-to-date output was down 10 percent at 3.05
billion tonnes, putting it on track for lower annual production
for a third year in a row as its effort to shift to cleaner,
renewable fuels takes effect. The government has also closed
illegal privately owned mines.
Output of coke, a key ingredient in steelmaking, rose by 5.7
percent from a year earlier to 38.8 million tonnes in November.
For the year-to-date, output was down 0.2 percent at 410.53
(additional reporting by Beijing newsroom and Henning Gloystein
in SINGAPORE; Editing by Richard Pullin)