* Steel traders seen restocking ahead of Lunar New Year
* Dalian coking coal rises after coal mine accident
* China’s 2018 iron ore imports fall by 1 percent - customs
By Enrico Dela Cruz
MANILA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Chinese steel futures edged higher on Monday, with rebar up over 1 percent as traders rebuilt stocks, while prices of coking coal climbed more than 3 percent following a deadly coal mine collapse in Shaanxi province on Saturday.
The accident killed 21 miners, the deadliest reported so far this year in China’s coal industry, known for its poor safety record, the state-run People’s Daily reported on Sunday.
The most-active rebar contract, for May delivery, on the Shanghai Futures Exchange rose 1.3 percent to 3,562 yuan ($528.93) a tonne as of 0202 GMT. Hot rolled coil edged up 0.7 percent at 3,446 yuan.
“Our steel inventory analytics model (indicates that) steel traders are starting to build up inventory of their position ahead of Chinese New Year (next month),” said Darren Toh, a data scientist with Singapore-based steel and iron ore data analytics company Tivlon Technologies.
Market sentiment was positive following the approval of several infrastructure projects by the Chinese government, which will be rolled out from the second quarter of 2019, he said.
Customs data released on Monday showed China’s 2018 iron ore imports fell by 1 percent from a year earlier, the first annual decline since 2010, to 1.064 billion tonnes.
The most traded coking coal, for May delivery, on the Dalian Commodity Exchange, jumped as much as 3.7 percent to 1,256 yuan a tonne. Coke was up as much as 2.8 percent at 2008 yuan.
Coking coal also extended price gains following news that China’s National Coal Mine Safety Administration had asked some mining firms in major coal hubs in Shandong and Henan provinces and parts of northeastern China to halt operations for inspections that will last until June.
Spot iron ore for delivery to China SH-CCN-IRNOR62 was steady at $74.80 a tonne on Friday, according to SteelHome consultancy.
($1 = 6.7344 yuan)
Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; editing by Richard Pullin