Export taxes on all kinds of coal would be increased from the current 15 percent to 20 percent as of September 11 to limit the outflow of the natural resource, according to a new circular issued by the Ministry of Finance.

Under the circular, export tariffs on other natural resources such as brass, aluminium and lead would also be raised from next month.

The move was made in response to a recent shortage of coal to fuel the country's thermal power plants that had led to a need to import the mineral, the ministry said.

The Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Holding Corp (Vinacomin), the country's largest coal supplier, said that it would gradually cut coal exports to 3 million tonnes a year by 2015 from 16.5 million tonnes this year. It currently exports up to roughly 2 million tonnes of coal a month.

Vinacomin said that last month it produced 3.6 million tonnes of coal, lifting the total output in the first seven months of 2011 to more than 26 million tonnes, up 3.4 percent over the same period last year. The country exported 9.9 million tonnes of coal during the January-July period, down more than 10 percent.

Experts estimated that the country would have to import 10 million tonnes of coal both this year and next, mostly low-energy bituminous coal for use in power stations. That figure was estimated to reach 100 million tonnes by 2020 to meet the urgent demand for electricity as well as the demands of other industries such as steel and cement.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Thanh Bien said the ministry would build a reasonable strategy on coal imports and exports to ensure energy security.

To meet the rising domestic demand, Vinacomin's acting deputy director Vu Manh Hung said the Government should approve a plan to explore and exploit the coal basin in the Hong (Red) River Delta soon.

Vinacomin would need roughly 1 billion USD annually to increase coal production to 48 million tonnes in 2015 – 8 million tonnes higher than the current output – and to 55-70 million tonnes in 2020. Demand was estimated to reach 54 million tonnes in 2015 and 150 million tonnes in 2020. /.