The Chinese news site sxcoal.com said that talk of China ending its unofficial ban on imports of Australian coal, in place since October 2020, had recently intensified, according to Reuters. “Rumors of easing the ban on Australian coal imports have been circulating recently,’ the coal-trading website said.

The rumors gained currency after China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, met his Australian counterpart, Penny Wong, during the summit of the Group of 20 economies in Bali.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg News also reported that Chinese officials were proposing to end the import ban because of supply concerns due to Western-led sanctions on Russia, and the proposal would be submitted to senior leaders. Commenting on Wong’s request for China to lift its “trade ban,” the commerce ministry said, “China hopes Australia can take pragmatic actions to create favorable conditions for bilateral trade relations.”

Australia’s metallurgical coal exports have been hit the worst by the unofficial ban, especially as it now trades at a very rare and steep discount to thermal coal prices, which are booming on the back of the loss of Russian supply. Benchmark Australian Newcastle thermal coal prices are at $400 per metric ton (mt),, compared to about $178/mt for China’s domestic coal. China has been stepping up coal imports from Russia, which are priced at a discount compared to other sources, as many buyers have halted purchases from Russia in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.