(Corrects year-to-date imports total in fourth paragraph)
* Nov coal imports rise 3.6 pct from Oct, but drop yr-on-yr
* Winter heating season has kicked off
* Beijing wants switch to cleaner fuels
BEIJING, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Chinese coal imports rose in November from the month before on firm demand during the winter heating season, even as Beijing encourages a shift to cleaner fuels in its battle against pollution.
Shipments into the world’s top coal importer reached 22.05 million tonnes in November, up 3.6 percent from October, but down from 26.97 million tonnes a year ago, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Friday.
The figures include lignite, a type of coal with a lower heating value that is largely supplied by Indonesia.
Year-to-date imports were up 8.4 percent at 248.17 million tonnes, according to the data.
“Coal traders are seeking cheaper fuel from overseas markets as miners in China have been ordered to cut capacity to tackle environmental and safety inspections,” said Zhang Min, analyst at Sublime Info.
Coal prices in China have risen steadily this year, touching their highest since at least 2015 at 688.8 yuan ($104.07) a tonne on Dec.4.
Utilities in northern China have been running at full tilt since November as households crank up heating systems for winter, while a plan to convert many cities to cleaner fuels has run into headwinds.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection recently told local authorities that have not converted to gas or electric heating that they may burn coal or other fuels, media reported.
“Coal imports are expected to go up in December since many domestic coal miners are choosing to halt production for maintain,” said Zhang, adding that the suspension may involve about a third of monthly output.
$1 = 6.6185 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Muyu Xu and Josephine Mason; Editing by Joseph Radford