CHINA FORECASTS SHARP INCREASE IN COAL EXPORTS

CHINA FORECASTS SHARP INCREASE IN COAL EXPORTS

Exports of Chinese coal may hit 17 million tons this year, 30 percent over 1987, an official said.

Wei Guofu, general manager of China National Coal Development Corp., said coal exports in 1987 came to 13.1 million tons and earned US$464 million.That was 36 percent more in volume and 16 percent more in revenue than in 1986, he said, but the exports fell below earlier forecasts of between 13.5 million and 16 million tons.

Speaking to last week's Pacific Rim coal conference in Beijing, Mr. Wei said the government is working on a long-term plan to expand coal exports as a means of earning foreign exchange.

He said domestic demand is declining, though many factories and municipalities report regular power cuts. China relies on coal for about 70 percent of its energy.

China intends to speed up construction of coal-hauling railroads and to increase upgrading of coal ports, Mr. Wei said. Coal transport capacity is forecast to increase by one-fourth by 1990.

The latest stage of the Qinhuangdao coal port in Hebei province is now in operation, the official said, including eight berths capable of handling ships of 10,000 to 50,000 deadweight tons. They add 43 million tons to the port's coal capacity, he said.

The first stage of a new electrified, double-track rail line from Datong in north-central Shaanxi province, a main coal-producing area, to Qinhuangdao was completed late last year.

Further development at the port will see addition of two 35,000-ton berths and one for ships of 100,000 tons. They should be ready next year, Mr. Wei told the delegates.

While China has vast coal reserves - perhaps 100 billion recoverable tons - it still suffers from an inability to move coal from the interior mines to ports or major industrial and commercial centers.

Chinese mines last year produced 925 million tons, according to official statistics. The goal is 1.4 billion tons by the year 2000.