Coal imports surge during the COVID-19 pandemic hinh anh 1A coal mine in the northern province of Quang Ninh. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - Vietnam's coal imports have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statistics of the General Department of Vietnam Customs showed the country imported 4.4 million tonnes last month.

The price of imported coal was about 1.4 million VND (60 USD) per tonne.

Vietnam has imported close to 36 million tonnes of coal in the first seven months of this year, with a turnover of 2.5 billion USD.

Import volume is estimated to have increased more than 46 percent from the same period last year with an average price of 1.6 million VND per tonne.

The markets Vietnam imports the most coal from are Indonesia, Russia and China.

Coal from Indonesia was imported the most in the past seven months with 11.2 million tonnes and a turnover of more than 540 million USD. Coal imported from China only accounted for 140,000 tonnes.

According to the General Department of Vietnam Customs, coal imported from China was for iron refining, while coal imports from Indonesia and Russia were mainly coal dust, serving thermal power plants.

Vietnam's coal import activities have surged recently. The country imported more than 43.7 million tonnes of coal of all kinds last year with a turnover of 3.78 billion USD, a year-on-year increase of 91 percent in output.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said Vietnam's increasing coal imports were mainly due to the demand for coal for large power plants.

Meanwhile, exploiting coal domestically was increasingly difficult and costly.

The country's Power Development Master Plan VII still has a large number of coal-fired thermal power plants.

Of these, build-operate-transfer (BOT) thermal power plants, thermal power plants for industrial parks and export processing zones have their own coal trading mechanism. Therefore, enterprises signed contracts to import cheap coal from abroad instead of buying domestic coal.

Truong Duy Nghia, chairman of the Vietnam Thermal Science and Technology Association, told Dat Viet (Vietnam's Land) newspaper that the country's coal export volume decreased while import volume increased as the exploitation situation was more difficult and coal reserves with favourable mining conditions had been exhausted.

Investment costs and coal prices are increasing as most coal mines need to be exploited deeper than previously, posing a higher level of danger.

Domestic coal is mainly exploited to serve the electricity industry and other industries such as chemicals and construction materials.

Each industry uses different types of coal with different quality and Vietnam tends to export coal for domestic use and import other types of coal suitable for electricity production and industry, said Nghia./.