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Coal Supplies May Exceed Demand, Industry Expert Barlow Jonker Says

Global supplies of coal used in power plants may increase faster than demand for the fuel as mines in Australia and Indonesia boost output, said minerals' industry consultant Barlow Jonker Pty.

World supply of coal may increase by 20.8 million metric tons this year as demand gains 12.8 million tons, led by North Asia, Mark Earley, executive director of Barlow Jonker, told the Asian Coal Outlook 2006 conference in Singapore Jan. 24. He didn't provide figures for total supply or demand.

``Indonesia and Australia may pick up some additional tonnage,'' Earley said. ``For China, we can expect an additional 9 million tons or nothing at all, depending on the policy of the government.''

China's government has restricted exports of the fuel to ensure supplies to domestic power stations after prices rose to records in global markets last year. Higher prices prompted mining companies including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group, two of the world's three largest miners, to boost investment in coal production last year.

Coal is the world's second-biggest energy source, behind oil and ahead of natural gas.

Indonesian Output

Indonesian coal output may rise as much as 10 million tons this year, according to slides shown by Barlow Jonker at the conference. Australian production may rise 11.8 million tons.

Benchmark spot prices of coal for power stations, known as thermal coal, have fallen 20 percent since August, according to the globalCOAL NEWC Index of prices at Newcastle port in Australia. Rising Indonesian exports may weigh on prices next year, National Australia Bank Ltd. said in July.

Annual contract prices for thermal coal from Australia, the world's largest coal exporter, rose 18 percent to $53 a ton from April 1, 2005. Spot prices for coal for export from Newcastle were at $37.42 a ton as of Dec. 2, according to globalCOAL.

Supply for coking coal, used in steelmaking, may rise 5.4 million tons this year, lagging a forecast 5.8 million-ton increase in demand, Barlow Jonker said.