Negotiating on behalf of the entire industry, Glencore and Tohoku Electric Power settled on $US84.97 per tonne for the next 12 months, which is the highest since it was $US95 per tonne in 2013.
The price is a major boost for Hunter Valley miners, who have been selling much of their coal to Japanese customers for $US61.60 per tonne over the past year, despite the fact daily spot market prices for Newcastle thermal coal rose as high as $US109.70 per tonne in November.
The new annual contract price is also higher than the current spot price for premium Newcastle thermal coal, which was fetching $US77.42 per tonne on Wednesday.
The higher price is largely due to China's reform of its coal sector, which reduced supply and sparked last year's rally in coal prices. The same reforms have created expectations that thermal coal prices will fetch between $US75 and $US85 per tonne in 2017.
Marian Hookham from IHS Markit said Japanese customers still preferred stable pricing rather than volatile spot markets.
"A level around $US80 to $US85 (excluding freight) is in line with average prices for premium quality Australian thermal coal achieved in recent months, as well as being in line with expectations for a range within which Chinese domestic market pricing will move," she said.
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