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SYDNEY/BEIJING: Shares of Australian coal miners jumped on Thursday after a Chinese news site said that talk of China ending its unofficial ban on imports of Australian coal, in place since October 2020, had recently intensified.

Firms such as Coronado Resources, Yancoal Australia , Whitehaven Coal and New Hope Corp all saw shares rise between 6% and 10% on the report on trade website sxcoal.com, which was also cited by CN Wire.

“Rumours of easing the ban on Australian coal imports have been circulating recently,” the trade website said.

The rumours gained currency after China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, met his Australian counterpart, Penny Wong, last week during the summit of Group of 20 economies on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

“There were rumours last week saying the ban was to be lifted, and now the talk is intensifying after the two parties met,” the website added.

Commenting on Wong’s request for China to lift its “trade ban”, the commerce ministry said on Thursday, “China hopes Australia can take pragmatic actions to create favourable conditions for bilateral trade relations.”

China’s powerful state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters has also contacted Chinese customs authorities to seek comment.

Industry sources in Australia and China, who sought anonymity as the issue is a sensitive one, told Reuters they had heard nothing concrete, just the rumours.

“We have not received any instruction from the government on Australian coal imports,” said a coking coal trader based in China.

Australia’s trade and resources minister declined to comment.

The Minerals Council of Australia, the industry’s main lobbying group, said it was unaware of any change to China’s policy.

Officials of top global metallurgical coal producer BHP Group were not immediately available for comment.

Australia’s metallurgical coal used in steel mills has been worst hit 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.

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