Australian coal miners attack China's new testing system

Australian coal miners attack China's new testing system

Coal-loading operations in Newcastle Port. (Image from archives)

Australian miners are up in arms against China’s new coal-quality testing system, as they claim Beijing is using it to block imports and so favour its own struggling coal industry.

The Minerals Council of Australia, which counts some of the world's biggest coal miners as members, including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore, is leading the battle.

“The main problems relate to the variability in the testing regime, inadequate allowance for commercial remedies and the delays it is subjecting shipping to,” Greg Evans, director of coal at the council told Financial Times. “There is no doubt each of these factors adds to cost and increases risk,” he added.

Coal has traditionally been tested for ash and sulphur levels, but Chinese customs have recently begun checking imports for fluorine and phosphorus as well, as part of the country’s “war on pollution.”

According to the Australian Financial Review, some producers have been threatened with penalties, which could soon become de-facto tariff charges.

And while these new rules are not uniform across the country, the most relevant ones for exporters are conducted at China’s southeastern cities, which are the main users of Australian coal.

Coal is Australia’s second-largest export after iron ore.