If that’s what western coal producers are banking on to shore up traditional demand centres and keep seaborne coking coal prices attractive, they’d be wise to think again. Talk of a 5,500km rail line to move Mongolian coal through Russia to eastern ports has been met with incredulity by western observers. But if the chief operating officer of the biggest coal developer is to be believed, the Mongolian government is dead serious about exporting to countries other than China.
Speaking at a recent Anthracite Coaltrans conference in Hong Kong, Graeme Hancock, COO of state-owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi (ETT) said once fully developed, the massive coalfield has potential to be pumping out in excess of 60Mtpa of high quality coking coal.
Energy Publishing Asia Pacific’s Managing Director Marian Hookham has explored what the development of the ETT project and the determination of Mongolia to export coking coal to a world market means.
On its own, the project headed up by New Zealand-born Hancock is expected to deliver 20Mtpa of good quality coking coal for at least 50 years. By 2016, output from the various coal projects under development, including ETT, is forecast to range somewhere between 40-80Mtpa, depending on market conditions.
And then there are other unexplored parts of the basin which also have enormous potential to double output again.
ETT started producing coal in 2011 and has produced 1.6Mt in the year to date. By 2015, it is expecting to be producing around 15Mtpa, settling at a steady state of 20Mtpa (ROM) by 2020.
Of the 10 producers and developers currently in the region, ETT is the largest with a Measured, Indicated and Inferred reserve of 7.4Bt and Proven and Probable reserves of 1.8Bt. The two existing miners, MMC and South Gobi, produced 4.5Mt and 4.6Mt, respectively, in 2011, and are forecast to be producing at 15Mtpa and 7Mtpa, by 2015.
A key challenge for the nascent coking coal province will be navigating geopolitical relations with its powerful neighbours. A long history of tension between Mongolia and China has made the Mongolian government leery of completely hitching its resources off-take to the superpower. Which is the main reason the Mongolian government is exploring the possibility of exporting coal through its other powerful neighbour Russia.
More information can be found in the China Coal Report which presents weekly updates on both the producer and consumer sides of the Chinese coal market. With information on trade, transport and policy updates, the China Coal Report provides comprehensive coverage for anyone dealing with the Chinese coal market.
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