Vietnam to import coal in 2013: producer

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State-owned Vietnam National Coal and Minerals Industries Group has said the country will have to start importing coal in 2013 with an annual volume of up to 20 million tons.

Deputy General Director Nguyen Van Hai said Vietnam may have difficulties in importing enough coal.

"We are planning to work with our partners in mining projects overseas so that we will be able to bring coal to the country," Hai said at a press briefing in Hanoi Wednesday.

The national coal monopoly, also known as Vinacomin, announced Wednesday that the government has allowed it to increase prices.

According to Vinacomin, a price hike is necessary as production costs would surge due to deeper mining. Salaries for miners also need to be raised this year, it said.

Coal prices supplied to Electricity of Vietnam have been raised by between 27 and 48 percent, lower than Vinacomin's price hike proposal of up to 149 percent.

Hai said after the hike Vinacomin would still have to suffer losses as the new prices are still 20-30 percent lower than production cost and 50-60 percent lower than export prices.

"We hope the government will allow us to raise prices of coal supplied to the power sector at the end of this year so that production cost can be recouped."

Domestic coal consumption is projected to climb to 90 million tons in 2015 from just under 20 million tons this year as a series of new thermal power plants become operational.

Retail power prices have been increased by 6.8 percent since March 1 ahead of the expected coal price hike.

Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Do Huu Hao said last week it would be the only power hike of the year.

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