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By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE (Reuters) -The Australian government is helping coal importing nations find alternatives to Russia for supplies by connecting them with local producers, a government spokesperson said on Thursday, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine made buyers look elsewhere.
Australia's top independent producer, Whitehaven Coal, and New Hope Group said they have been approached to supply countries, including Poland, which have traditionally relied on Russian coal.
Poland is looking to stop buying coal from Russia and has been pressing the European Union to do the same.
"The Australian government is facilitating access to Australian thermal coal producers to interested parties as they seek alternative supplies from Russia," a spokesperson for Resources Minister Keith Pitt said.
Poland wants to impose an embargo on Russian coal for its invasion of Ukraine, while other coal buyers are looking for alternatives in preparation for potential sanctions against Russian energy exports, industry sources said.
"Australia's coal producers have indicated they are willing to help our friends and allies if they can," Pitt's spokesman said.
The government's effort was first reported by The Australian newspaper.
Glencore Plc declined to comment and Yancoal Australia was not immediately available for comment.
Coal supply is extremely tight at the moment, partly due to flooding and labor issues at mines in Australia, which means local producers would be hard-pressed to fill any supply gap in Europe in the near term.
"New Hope Group’s high quality coals are in high demand in existing markets, however, the Group will examine the opportunities for supply to European markets," New Hope's spokesperson said.
In a sign of how tight the market is, coal prices for loading at Newcastle - the world's biggest coal port on Australia's east coast - rocketed to a record $440 a tonne on Wednesday, a five-fold jump from a year ago.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Christopher Cushing & Simon Cameron-Moore)