On strong domestic demand, China's coal imports rose 34 percent to 51.02 million tons last year, according to customs statistics.
Exports totaled 53.17 million tons, meaning that net exports shrank to 2.15 million tons from 82.9 million tons in 2003.
The country once became a net importer in the first quarter of last year, according to customs data.
The customs attributed this to a decline in domestic supply after the closure of many illegal and insecure collieries.
Imports were also boosted by the scrapping of the import tariffs on June 1.
Coal makes up nearly 70 percent of China's nonrenewable resources. To fuel the robust economic growth, coal production more than doubled from 998 million tons in 2000 to 2.38 billion tons in 2006 and investment in the coal industry have been rising at an annual rate of 50 percent in recent years.
The country no longer approves coal mines with an annual production capacity of less than 300,000 tons and closed some 10,000 small coal mines by the end of 2007.
The government abolished tax rebates on coal exports and imposed export tariffs while cutting import duties in 2006.
(Xinhua News Agency January 19, 2008)