* Global coal exports have doubled since 2003
* Coal demand grows slower than supplies
* Australian exporters cut jobs, close mines
LONDON, May 27 (Reuters) - European physical coal prices dropped on Tuesday, continuing a trend that has seen healthy supplies clash with weak seasonal and structural demand this spring.
Cargoes for delivery in June to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp (AR) were trading at $71.85 a tonne on Tuesday afternoon, their lowest level since late February and down almost 20 percent since the beginning of the year, according to the GLOBALcoal trading platform.
The dropping prices are a result of two bearish price factors at play at the same time.
On the supply side, more coal has steadily become available for imports over the past decade, with industry sources showing a doubling of global shipments to over 800 million tonnes between 2003 and 2013.
Yet at the same time, demand growth has slowed on the back of low economic and demographic growth in industrialised countries and because of lower GDP expansion in emerging markets.
“Suppliers invested into coal mining using figures from pre-2008 which showed steady demand rises around the world,” one coal trader said.
“But with energy demand growth in industrialised countries almost at zero and China, the biggest emerging market of them all, shifting towards using more gas, these figures have turned out to be false,” he added.
Adding to the structurally weak market in Europe is seasonally low summer demand as well as the shutdown of a coal-fired power plant in Britain and delays to a new plant in Germany.
E.ON’s British arm said on Friday that it would not restore service from its 370 megawatt Unit 1 at the Ironbridge power station in central England. The unit was shut down after a fire on Feb. 4, but the company says it would be too expensive to repair the damage.
In Germany, coal capacities have changed because the start date of the 800 MW Westfalen E has been postponed by a year and is now not due to be operational until June 2015.
“The combined British closure and German delay have reduced European coal order needs, so that’s helped pull down ARA prices,” one coal trader with a utility said.
Australia, where labour costs are high compared with other major exporters such as Indonesia, South Africa and Colombia, has been particularly hard hit by falling prices, with mining majors Glencore, BHP Billiton, Vale and Rio Tinto, all announcing job cuts or mining closures in Australia. (Reporting by Henning Gloystein, editing by Louise Heavens)