China is set to ban the import and sale of coal containing high ash and sulphur levels from 2015 with the aim of tackling air pollution in the country, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
As per the revised rule, only coal with less than 40% ash content and less than 3% of sulphur content will be allowed within the country.
In addition, lignite with an ash content higher than 30% and more than 1.5% sulphur, and coal containing chemicals such as mercury and arsenic, will also be prohibited.
NDRC was quoted by Reuters as saying: "Coal that does not meet these requirements must not be imported, sold, nor transported for long distances."
According to China Coal Transport and Distribution Association (CCTDA), China has also urged coal importers such as power utilities and coal miners to reduce coal imports by 40 million tonnes from September to December this year.
A large portion of low-grade coal comes from Indonesia and Australia, and the ban is expected to affect miners from those regions; however, according to Indonesian Coal Mining Association head Bob Kamandanu, their coal has a sulphur content of less than 1% and ash levels between 5% and 7%, reported The Walls Street Journal.
Minerals Council of Australia said in a statement: "There is nothing in the information released to date to suggest that Australian coal exporters will be disadvantaged and we are confident that we can meet the proposed specifications."
According to data from the China Coal Industry Association, China consumes around 3.5 billion tonnes of coal a year and imports around 300 million tonnes of coal a year, making it the largest in the world in both the segments.