The Real Cash Cow in Mining Isn’t Metals. It’s Bad Old Coal – by Thomas Biesheuvel (Bloomberg News – October 10, 2018)

For all the bullish talk about metals of the future, miners are making some of their biggest profits from heavy-industry stalwart coal.

Base metals from copper to zinc have tumbled this year, caught up as a proxy for trade fears and emerging market jitters. Meanwhile, coal has ground steadily upwards, supported by strong demand from top commodities user China, and is trading near the highest in more than six years.

That’s translating into big paydays for producers. Glencore Plc is in touching distance of seeing its coal mining profits eclipse copper earnings this year for the first time since it sold shares in London in 2011.

Anglo American Plc’s coal earnings almost trebled in the last four years, despite lower production. The fuel is forecast to contribute a whopping 43 percent of Anglo’s profits this year despite it operating some of the best platinum, diamond and copper mines in the world.

“This is the sweet spot for the coal miners,” said Ben Davis, an analyst at Liberum Capital Markets. “Chinese coal demand is through the roof and that’s because domestically they’re not producing enough. China is importing more coal than it ever has done before.”

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