China's coal imports hit their highest level of 2021 in November, as the world's biggest consumer of the dirty fuel scrambled to feed its power system as the winter heating season kicked in.
The country brought in 35.05 million tonnes of coal last month, up from 26.94 million tonnes in October, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.
Chinese coal traders, however, were forced to sell cargoes at losses or tried to delay imports after market intervention triggered a 50% price drop that saddled them with unprofitable supplies.
Chinese authorities since October have also allowed some Australian coal, which had piled up at ports for almost a year due to political tensions between Beijing and Canberra, to pass customs clearance.
Customs data showed that 777,915 tonnes of Australian coking coal was cleared in October.
But China has not lifted an unofficial imports ban on Australian coal, traders said.
November's arrivals were also far higher than the 11.67 million tonnes brought in a year earlier during a broad curb on coal imports.
Imports in the first 11 months of the year were 292.32 million tonnes, up 10.6% year-on-year, customs data showed.
China's coal output has soared to record daily levels after Beijing ordered miners to boost production immediately to cool prices and plug a power shortage.
Some coal mines at major Chinese mining regions such as Inner Mongolia and Shanxi have voluntarily capped ex-pit prices in response to Beijing's call to stabilise the market.
Meanwhile, the amount of coal stored by power plants in the country reached 147 million tonnes as of Nov. 24 and may hit an all-time high by the end of the month.
Last Friday, the powerful National Development and Reform Commission proposed to set 2022 annual thermal coal prices at 550 yuan to 850 yuan ($86 to $133) a tonne, and has told miners and power plants to maximise signing up next year's supplies via term contracts, Chinese media reported.