Taking in early impacts of the global financial crisis, calculations by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics had total metallurgical coal exports in the December quarter sinking 11.57% from the previous three months to 32.11 million tonnes.
Australian thermal coal exports, on the other hand, increased 7.55% to 34.90Mt in the December quarter.
According to ABARE mineral statistics, most countries reduced their thermal exports during the period, but South Korea bucked the trend with a 58.50% surge in demand in the last three months of the year, increasing its imports to 8.67Mt.
Meanwhile, raw coal production from underground operations in the country rose 3.27% in the last three months of 2008 to 27.52Mt.
With last year fetching record high coal prices, ABARE estimates placed the average high-quality metallurgical coal price at $A418.11 a tonne ($US271.06/t) for the last three months of 2008 and other met coals at $A327.43/t ($US212.26/t).
The average estimate for thermal coal during the period was $A164.07/t ($US106.38/t).
Thermal coal prices yielded this calendar year are expected to fall as lower Newcastle spot prices are threatening to sink below the $US60/t level, and Xstrata and Rio Tinto have been widely reported to have inked deals with Japanese utility Chubu Electric at $US70-72/t.
There is an absence of news on the value of coking coal contracts for the new Japanese financial year starting next month, however the Australian Financial Review this week reported that AME Mineral Economics general manager Michael Dixon forecast hard coking coal export contracts to fetch around $US120/t.