Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says Australia will seek restitution for China’s ban on Australian coal.

Chinese state media has given the strongest confirmation yet that the nation is avoiding certain Australian coal products.

China's National Development and Reform Commission has reportedly met with 10 Chinese power plants to instruct them not to buy Australian coal, as the government pushes more imports from Mongolia, Indonesia and Russia.

Mr Birmingham says it is potentially a breach of World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations.

“It is certainly unacceptable to see a circumstance where governments, businesses find out about decisions of other businesses or other governments, purely via media outlets,” he said this week.

“I can assure everyone that when the Australian government makes decisions that affect other governments, we work through the proper diplomatic channels to inform those governments and we do so in a manner that is respectful and appropriate.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says China’s actions “would obviously be in breach of WTO rules” if true, and “would be obviously in breach of our on free trade agreement”.

China appears to be targeting the $4 billion worth of power-generating thermal coal that it normally imports each year, however, there are reports that shipments of Australian coking coal, used for steel-making, are unable to offload their cargo in China too.

Coal is among several Australian industries to have been hit with trade strikes by Beijing since Australia questioned China’s claims about the origins of the COVID-19 earlier this year.

Australia has launched a case with the WTO over the ban on Australian barley. The WTO has been hamstrung by the Trump administration in the US, which has blocked key appointments to its dispute resolution panel.

Matters currently before the WTO are expected to take years to resolve.