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Here's The First Big Change For A Critical Coal Spot

All eyes are on Indonesia in the coal world right now. Whether they know it or not.

The industry has been riveted of late on the price of thermal coal. Which has been edging lower in many markets--threatening to break through five-year lows.

The question is: is coal putting in a bottom? Or is there further to fall?

And much of that depends on Indonesia. Which has lately become the only source of supply growth going on the planet. With recent statistics showing that the nation's production for the first half of 2014 was up 7.6% from the same period of 2013--to 213 million tonnes.

But there have been a lot of signs that growth may be abating. And this week we got another key announcement from the Indonesian government on that front.

Platts reported yesterday that the country's regulators are now requiring all Indonesian coal exporters to register with the national trade ministry. The first time this agency has become involved in certifying the coal business--with that job formerly being left to the energy and mineral resources ministry.

It appears the trade registration is intended to curb illegal coal exports. Which some estimates suggest could be as high as 60 million tonnes yearly across the country.

This could thus be the first step toward stopping such contraband shipments of coal to other nations. And that could in turn be a concrete step in finally reducing Indonesia's overall exports.

The numbers suggest this shift could be significant. During the first half of 2014, Indonesia exported 158 million tonnes of coal. Putting the country on path for around 315 million tonnes of exports for the year.

If the 60 million tonne estimate is correct for illegal exports, tighter laws could reduce export supply by nearly 20%. A significant figure when it comes to worldwide supply.

Reports are that coal producers will have until September to register with the trade ministry. After that deadline, we'll see what effects hit the market.

Here's to corralling the carbon,

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