The Indian government will request Australia to take measures to ensure steady supplies of coking coal, four sources said, as part of efforts to help steel mills reeling from falling supplies and rising prices of the key raw material in steel-making.
Nagendra Nath Sinha, the most senior official at India’s federal Ministry of Steel, will meet Philip Green, Australia’s high commissioner to India, and the two sides are likely to discuss India’s need for coking coal, said the sources, who included two Indian government officials and two industry executives.
Sinha and Green are likely to meet on Friday, said the sources, who declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to media.
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Australia accounts for over half of India’s coking coal imports of around 70 million metric tons a year.
The steel ministry and the Australian High Commission did not immediately reply to e-mails seeking comment.
As erratic weather conditions hit coking coal supplies from Australia, Indian steel mills have been trying to turn to other countries such as Russia to take advantage of cheaper prices. Still, major Indian producers rely on Australia, especially for some specific grades of the commodity.
Some domestic producers such as the government-backed Steel Authority of India SAIL.NS (SAIL) want to increase coking coal purchases from Russia due to cheaper prices, SAIL Chairman Amarendu Prakash said last week.
Other than Australia and Russia, India also imports coking coal from the U. S.
Last month, prices for Australian coking coal jumped 50% to over $350 a metric ton due to factors such as maintenance outages, lower than usual supplies from Queensland, and a slower train network.
Indian mills were looking to raise prices of various grades of steel due to rising coking coal costs, officials told Reuters last month.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Neha Arora; Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj and Raju Gopalakrishnan)