The decision by Russia to undertake a “special military operation” in Ukraine as of 24 February has impacted coal producers worldwide, as sanctions against the aggressor mean coal importers are now having to source alternative supplies.
The EU has totally banned Russian coal imports as of 10 August, at a time when the international coal market is already in a very tight situation. Euracoal, for example, now aims to secure 50mt (million tonnes) of coal from a combination of the US, Australia, Indonesia, Colombia and South Africa to replace Russian imports.
In 2021, Europe’s biggest coal users imported slightly more than 44mt, but had already bought 41mt in the first half of 2022 from the five main exporting coal producing nations.
Europe has mainly turned to the US, where thermal coal demand has fallen in recent years. Australia has been another good alternative source, since China refuses to import any of that country’s output as part of a diplomatic boycott. Its high heating value offsets the longer distance the coal now needs to travel.
Colombia is also being turned to supply the Europeans, but lacks the production capacity to increase output sufficiently to meet all demand.
South African imports have doubled in the first two quarters, although there are doubts whether this increase can be maintained over the longer term, given rail  bottlenecks at Richards Bay and prevailing weather conditions.
Finally, while imports from Indonesia are higher than they were last year, the actual total was still below 2mt, because of the low grade coal it exports. Capacity in that country also remains limited.