China will ban the import and local sale of coal with high ash and sulfur content starting from 2015 in a bid to tackle air pollution, with tough requirements in major coastal cities set to hit Australian miners.
China imported about 54 million tonnes of Australian thermal coal and another 13 million tonnes from South Africa in 2013 -most of which would not meet the proposed restrictions on ash and content.
The policy, previously reported by Reuters, comes as prices on the Global Coal Newcastle index slump to a five-year low amid a supply glut and slowing demand from China,the world's top importer.
Under the new regulations, to come into effect in January, the government has set different level of requirements on coal grades for mining, local sales and imports.
The most stringent requirements are for cities in the southern Pearl River Delta, the eastern Yangtze River Delta and three northern cities including Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. These will be banned from burning coal that has more than 16 percent ash and 1 percent sulfur, according to a statement published on the National Development and Reform Commission website.
Since the coastal regions such as Guangdong and Zhejiang province are some of China's top coal importers, the regulations are set to block a sizable amount of imports.