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China should control thermal coal imports and increase purchases of high-quality coking coal to meet environmental protection requirements, executives from two of the country’s biggest steel producers said this week at the National People’s Congress.

Yuan Weixia from the Wuhan subsidiary of China’s biggest steelmaker, China Baowu Steel Group, and Yang Gengbao from an arm of the country’s biggest private steelmaker, Jiangsu Shagang Group, made the proposal at the nation’s annual parliament meeting in Beijing, according to state-backed China Metallurgical News. It was not clear if they made a joint presentation or spoke separately.

Yuan, in charge of a technology achievements department at Wuhan Iron and Steel, and Yang, vice director of a Shagang rolling mill, are delegates to the National People’s Congress this year. They said China should buy more quality coking coal for the sake of the environment and to protect domestic coking coal shortages, according to the industry publication.

 The two delegates also called for shortening the customs clearance period for coking coal. The clearance times have been extended in recent years to limit import volumes.

The long clearing period also adds to steelmakers’ costs and raises international coal prices, they said.

Coking coal is a key raw material in the production of steel, and lower-quality coking coal increases costs because of the technology needed to lower emissions in production.China has abundant thermal coal resources but is lacking in high-quality coking coal.

China, the world’s top steel producer, imported 126.73 million tonnes of coal in the first four months of this year, of which 27.08 million tonnes was coking coal.

Analysts expect China’s coal imports to drop as much as a quarter in the second half of 2020 from the same period a year earlier to shore up its struggling domestic industry.