(EnergyAsia, April 29 2011, Friday) — The contract price of thermal coal has risen to an all-time high, supported by rising demand from China and India, and Japan’s renewed interest.

With nuclear power programmes facing cutbacks around the world following the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima reactors, countries will increase their demand for the three main traditional fossils of oil, gas and coal. Thermal coal, the largest source of energy for electricity generation, is expected to be a major winner.

Last month, British mining group Xstrata secured the renewal of an annual thermal coal contract with Japan’s Chugoku Electric Power at a record price of US$130 a tonne, up 30% from last year’s prices.

Last year, China and India imported 197 million tonnes of coal, up about nine times from 2003. With Japan as well as other emerging economies joining in the rush for coal, industry watchers expect the trend of rising coal demand and prices to continue.