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Utility companies in Indonesia, China and India are building more power plants that use thermal coal to satisfy the increasing demand for power in the region, which will in turn help keep coal prices high.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced in March that unrefined coal exports would be banned from 2014, leading to what some observers have described as the Indonesian coal rush.

If the ban is implemented, miners will have to invest in processing facilities in Indonesia. The vast majority of coal mined in Indonesia at present is exported in its raw form and refined overseas.

Bob Kamandanu, chairman of the Indonesian Coal Mining Association, said coal production would remain stable next year, but he expected a slight decrease in prices. He forecast coal would cost $100 to $110 per ton next year, lower than the average price this year of $110 to $120 a ton.

He said the association maintained its national coal production target of 380 million tons next year, up from the 360 million ton target for this year.

The coal mining industry has been criticized recently by communities living near mining concessions. There have been claims of rights abuses, including forced displacement and environmental destruction to make way for mining projects that communities say rarely benefit them.

Indonesia is the world's top exporter of thermal coal, most of which goes to China and India.

Shayne Heffernan list of Asian Miners are Must Own Equities.

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Rolling blackouts, power shedding because demand outstrips supply, are commonplace across the country. India often needs 10 per cent more electricity than the country can produce, the Central Electricity Authority says.

Even in the capital, in the garage or backyard of most homes sits a generator, which is used to ride out the inevitable cuts. (During the peak of summer demand, the Herald office backup rumbles into life three or four times a day.)

Across the country, 40 per cent of Indians get electricity for fewer than 12 hours a day.

And still the country needs more.

The International Energy Agency says 404 million Indians live with no access to electricity at all, and the government has set an ambitious target of electrifying more than 5.2 million below-poverty-line households this year alone.

Demand for energy in India is nearly insatiable.

And it is coal the country needs.

While India is home to 20 nuclear power plants and has a staggering 44 under, or slated for, construction, there are growing concerns - post-Fukushima - over nuclear power and the regulation of the industry.

Wind and solar energy are growing too, but are still at the periphery of India's energy needs. Dependence on coal is unlikely to abate for generations.

Coal, Bami explains to the room of people who know it better than anyone, provides 50 per cent of India's energy.

There is no shortage of the material. India is the third largest miner of its indigenous supplies in the world, with millions of tonnes still to be exploited.

But getting to that coal can often take several years. Developers must deal with India's famously obstructionist bureaucracy, comply with new, stricter environmental regulations, and observe the rights of those who live above the coal, recognised only recently (many would say, too late).

Several proposed plant developments remain under moratorium from the Environment Ministry.

For five years, from 2004-05, India's local coal production increased 7 per cent a year. But it has stagnated in the past two, barely moving from about 550 million tonnes, hampered by reasons of politics, land rights, environment, or all three.

Four years ago, the shortfall in India's coal production was just 59 million tonnes.

This year, the country will produce 554 million tonnes of coal, but will need 696 million.

By the financial year 2016-17, it will need 1 billion tonnes - an estimated 300 million tonnes of which it won't be able to produce.

The chairman of the India Energy Forum coal group, N.N. Gautam, says it is unavoidable the country will become more and more dependent on imported supplies.

But we cannot rely to simply buy on the global market, because there are so many factors we cannot control. Global coal availability might not come to our rescue. India will have to acquire coal mines outside India, he says.

Although buying up coal mines overseas was not a panacea for energy problems one thing is for sure, acquisition will continue. He also stresses that domestic production needs to be increased through more mines being approved, better infrastructure and efficiency.

Shayne Heffernan

Shayne Heffernan oversees the management of funds for institutions and high net worth individuals.

Shayne Heffernan holds a Ph.D. in Economics and brings with him over 25 years of trading experience in Asia and hands on experience in Venture Capital, he has been involved in several start ups that have seen market capitalization over $500m and 1 that reach a peak market cap of $15b. He has managed and overseen start ups in Mining, Shipping, Technology and Financial Services. www.livetradingnews.com