Some say that coal demand has slumped in 2009, but tell that to the industry’s related exchange traded funds (ETFs). The two coal-focused funds have gained more than 100% year-to-date and are up nearly 200% since the March 9 low.

Could the industry’s run be winding down? A poor economy, very low natural gas prices and lower export demand have all contributed to the diminished total demand for coal, according to The Business Insider. Additionally, producers failed to match the market with production cuts and inventories are estimated to stand at a minimum of 50 million tons of excess inventory in the United States.

Nevertheless, coal equities have done quite well for the year, with coal companies doubling or tripling off spring lows. The industry is currently trying to salvage revenue by drastically cutting production and an optimistic forecast puts the resolution of the glut by mid-2010.

A heavier hand by federal regulators has improved miner safety, but the high costs attached to the regulations has put many small companies out of business in Central Appalachia. The Environmental Protection Agency is also scrutinizing mine permits, which will likely raise production costs and restrain supply in the future. (Why Coal ETFs?)

Meanwhile, coal ETFs could be adding a new holding if Rio Tinto’s (NYSE: RTP) IPO of its U.S. coal business, Cloud Peak (NYSE: CLD), goes through, Benzinga reports.

For more information on coal, visit our coal category.

  • Market Vectors Coal ETF (NYSEArca: KOL): which is up 133.1% year-to-date

  • PowerShares Global Coal Portfolio (NASDAQ: PKOL): which is up 125.8% year-to-date.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.