January 11, 2016 / 5:36 AM / 3 years ago

Coal exports from Australian state of Queensland up despite mining backlash

SYDNEY, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Coal exports from Australia’s Queensland state hit record levels for the second year in 2015, with shipments to India up sharply despite stalled attempts by Indian conglomerates to win approvals to dig new outback mines, data showed on Monday.

The state’s exports rose 2 percent to 220 million tonnes in 2015 from the previous record of 216 million tonnes in 2014, and continue to grow, according to the Queensland Resources Council lobby group.

India’s Adani Enterprises, which wants to ship millions of tonnes of coal a year to India, has been a target of environmental opposition since starting work on a new mine in the state’s Galilee Basin six years ago.

GVK Hancock, along with more than a half-dozen other companies, is also seeking approvals to dig a mine in the basin, a 247,000-square kilometre (153,000-sq mile) expanse in north-eastern Australia.

Tim Buckley, an Australia-based director of the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said despite the increase, coal exporting countries such as Australia face a market in structural decline as India exploits more of its domestic coal reserves and switches to cleaner forms of energy.

“The supply is excessive, demand is weaker than expected, the last thing we need is more supply,” Buckley said.

The International Energy Agency forecasts India would increase overall thermal coal imports to 204 million tonnes by 2020, a 73-percent rise over its 2014 estimate.

From one Australian port alone, Gladstone, exports to India were up by a fifth in the second half of last year, data showed.

Some 80 percent of the coal mined in Queensland is metallurgical grade used to make steel.

The state’s biggest producer of metallurgical coal, a company jointly owned by BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Corp, is expected to show a year-on-year rise in December quarter output when data is released on Jan. 20. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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