Burnt bridges? This bridge connecting North Korea to the Chinese city of Dandong used to carry shipments of coal. Not now. Photo: Reuters

China’s coal imports from Russia jumped to their highest in nearly three years in March, customs data showed on Tuesday, as the world’s top buyer turned to alternative suppliers following its ban on imports from North Korea in February.

Arrivals from Russia gained 19.5% to 2.3 million tonnes, the highest monthly total since June 2014, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.

North Korea shipped zero coal last month, it said.

Overall coal imports rose, with big increases from Australia, Mongolia and Indonesia amid strong demand from steel mills, where output climbed to a record last month, and rallying domestic coking coal prices.

The higher steel output has raised more concerns about metallurgical coal supply after China banned high-quality anthracite imports from North Korea that are typically used for steel making.

Australian arrivals in March rose 15.75% from a year earlier to 6.66 million tonnes, while Mongolian shipments gained 56.35% to 3.05 million tonnes.

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