TOKYO, June 4 (Reuters) - Russia's biggest coal supplier and Japanese utilities have settled a thermal coal import contract at around $72 per tonne for the year that started April 1, down 17 percent from the previous fiscal year, industry sources said on Thursday.
The sources said the deal with SUEK Plc, parent of Russia's Siberian Coal Energy Co, was likely based on the earlier coal contract settlements between Tohoku Electric Power and global mining groups Rio Tinto and Glencore Xstrata at just under $68 a tonne, also down 17 percent on year.
"We've agreed with SUEK on an import price which is around 17 percent lower than last year," said a source at a Japanese utility who was directly involved in the talks.
A second source at another utility said the settlement price was around $72 a tonne.
Japanese utilities have been buying more coal from Russia to diversify their procurement sources as they rely on Australia for about 74 percent of their total imports, the sources said.
Japan imported 9.69 million tonnes of thermal coal from Russia last year, up 23.5 percent from 2013 and accounting for nearly 9 percent of total thermal coal imports.
An official at SUEK's Tokyo office said the company does not comment on the confidential price talks. (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Tom Hogue)