NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Even as the world braces for Chinese fiscal policy tightening, the country grows at a rate that the world can hardly keep up with. Like a hungry adolescent, China today needs to be fed constantly.

"India can no longer supply all their coal requirements," says Nick Raffan of Sydney-based independent stock research company Fat Prophets. Meanwhile, major coal exporter Indonesia has been reserving a good portion of its resources for the country's own internal needs.

China's coal industry, for its part, is currently far from being self-reliant right now. According to an earnings statement from mining company Joy Global ( JOYG), "China's shortage of coal production and rail bottlenecks created the need to substantially increase imports of thermal and metallurgical coal. China was self-sufficient in metallurgical coal until 2009, when imports surged to over 30 million metric tons."

Thus, if India and Indonesia can't do it alone, can Australia? Not likely. Due to infrastructure problems like insufficient port or rail infrastructure, even this major coal exporter currently can't load its coal fast enough. These infrastructure problems are "not being alleviated as fast as China is growing," Raffan says.

It would seem that there simply aren't enough hands available to feed a sufficient quantity of coal to China -- which is, of course, great news for coal producers around the world who could benefit from China's voracious appetite.

And China is hardly the sole variable in the bullish equation for the coal industry; pretty much the whole world is part of it. Raffan says if we leave out developed Europe, some of the increases that we've seen in industrial production figures lately have been "quite extraordinary."

"Outside of Europe we're not doing so badly," Raffin says. Durable goods, for example, are picking up in the U.S., and auto sales and production are picking up worldwide. "So I think the world's going to be lot more positive ... and definitely going to next year."

In light of all this, we now ask readers of TheStreet: Bearing in mind these bullish indicators for the coal industry, which mining stocks do you think will stand to benefit the most?

Before we get to this poll, let's first make some initial introductions on behalf of each mining stock contender, which we've reviewed in this coal-sector earnings preview. To wit....

Arch Coal ( ACI) provides approximately 16% of the U.S.'s coal supply from the company's 11 mining complexes in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. Arch Coal produced more than 180 million tons of pro forma coal sales in 2008, and supplied U.S. utilities with the fuel for about 8% of the country's electricity.

Alpha Natural Resources ( ANR) is the U.S.'s third-largest coal producer, turning out almost 100 million tons of steam and metallurgical coal. Alpha produces, processes, and sells steam and metallurgical coal from more than 60 mines and 14 coal preparation facilities situated throughout Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, and also is involved in the buying and resale of coal mined by others.

Consol Energy ( CNX) is the biggest producer of high-Btu bituminous coal in the U.S. and also produces coalbed methane gas. Consol Energy subsidiary CNX Gas is the largest producer of natural gas in the Appalachian Basin.

Massey Energy ( MEE) is the fourth largest coal company in the U.S. and the largest in Central Appalachia, when considering produced coal revenue. Massey has 2.3 billion tons of high-quality coal reserves and in 2007 sold almost 40 million tons of coal.

Patriot Coal ( PCX) produces and markets coal in the eastern U.S. through 14 mining complexes in Appalachia and the Illinois Basin. Patriot ships to domestic and international electric utilities, industrial customers and metallurgical coal customers, and controls about 1.8 billion tons of proven and probable coal reserves.

Bearing in mind the bullish indicators for the coal industry, which mining stocks do you think will stand to benefit the most?

Arch Coal
Alpha Natural Resources
Consol Energy
Massey Energy
Patriot Coal

-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York

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