The global coal industry has fallen into its most depressed state in decades, possibly ever. But as production contracts and mines close, we’re getting to a point where smaller shifts in the market could make a positive difference in prices.
And one such “x-factor” just emerged this week. In a completely unexpected place.
That’s the Southeast Asian island of the Philippines. Where an industry group said this week coal demand may be set to hit new highs, after already touching record levels during the past year.
At a mining conference in Manila, the head of the Philippine Chamber of Coal Mines, Arnulfo Robles, told Reuters that coal demand in the country is surging. And Robles put some very big numbers on where consumption could go over the coming years and decades.
He noted that the Chamber expects Philippines coal demand to jump by 10 to 15 million tonnes per year — and stay at those elevated levels for the “next 10 to 20 years”. A consequence of “dozens” of coal-fired power plants being built right now to support a growing economy.
That would be a major increase — last year, the nation consumed 20 million tonnes of coal. Implying that yearly demand here could rise by 75% from today’s levels.
Those stats are all the more impressive given that the 20 million tonnes imported during 2014 was already a record for the country. And it’s critical to note that over three-quarters of this demand was met by imports, as the Philippines mining industry struggles to ramp up domestic supply.
That suggests that the country could become a major new source of import demand over the coming years. Echoing a pattern of rising coal imports that’s being seen right now in other parts of Southeast Asia like Vietnam.
With demand rising as production falls rapidly the stage could be setting up for a market recovery here. If you’re in the coal market — or looking for very contrarian buys in the commodities space — this is an x-factor to watch.
Here’s to a thrilla in Manila,