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Price of Asian benchmark Australian thermal coal heats up to $100 for first time since 2012

Francesca Washtell
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Workers use heavy machinery to sift thro
Thermal coal is used in heat and power generation (Source: Getty)

The price of Australian thermal coal, which is mostly used in power generation, reached $100 today for the first time in four years.

A cargo was ordered on trading platform GlobalCoal for $100 per tonne from Australia's Newcastle port in November.

Shares in Glencore, one of Australia's largest coal producers, were up 2.7 per cent in afternoon trading to 235.95p, while Anglo American's stock was up 1.2 per cent to 1,024.5p.

Read more: Natural gas overtakes coal as dominant US power source for the first time

Australian thermal coal, also known as steam coal, is the Pacific benchmark and has rallied to almost double in value since June.

The price spike has ended a steady decline for the commodity and has been triggered by domestic mining cuts in China, which has required electricity generators and steelmakers in the Asian powerhouse to make up for a shortfall through imports. However, market analysts are sceptical the 2016 lift will last long into 2017.

Read more: BHP Billiton bucks trend with optimistic outlook for coal

"Coal miners are just as surprised as anyone in how well coal has performed. Limited supplies of high-quality thermal coal should keep the market in good shape through the end of the year. After that, it will be determined by the supply response," said James Wilson, analyst at Argonaut Securities.

Coal-fired power plants supply around 41 per cent of global electricity, according to the World Coal Association.

Data released in September showed coal made up 5.8 per cent of the UK's power mix in the second quarter, after a string of plants closed down.

Read more: Britain gets more power from sun than coal for first time in May

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