"With the disruptions in Australia and continuing high level of demand in China, there has been this upsurge in the U.S. with the planning, development and production from metallurgical coal mines," Sullivan says.
James Stevenson, director of the coal team at IHS Markit, says the metallurgical coal boom has helped the coal industry rebound. The rest of the coal industry has also benefited from higher natural gas prices. "I think that the broad-brush characteristic is that things have really improved from the bottom," Stevenson says.
"We really saw the bottom of the U.S. coal market in early 2016." Since then, the industry has picked up a bit. Several large coal companies have begun to emerge from bankruptcy, buoying the industry.
Still, despite this uptick, the industry isn't going back to its glory days of a few years ago, regardless of Trump's pro-coal policies, Stevenson says.
He expects natural gas prices to fall and the shortage of met coal to ease. "The direction is downward," Stevenson says. "There's not a whole lot a government can do to change economics, so we don't really expect a whole lot of change to the coal demand outlook from what any administration really can do," he says.
"Most analysts would agree [Trump's pro-coal policies] are probably a case of slowing the decline [rather than generating] any real upside."
Environment 5 Changes That Could Come From Leaving The Paris Climate Deal Coal production reached a 30-year low in 2015, and the number of U.S. coal miners fell from 90,000 in 2012 to 50,000 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The number of U.S. coal mines dropped from 1,831 in 2006 to 1,159 in 2015, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Overall, coal industry analysts say this rebound will pick the industry up, but not to the levels seen at its height around 2011.
"Natural gas is the big reason why coal use for electric power has declined," says Jay Apt, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. Apt says natural gas from the fracking boom has replaced coal on the electric grid; natural gas recently overtook coal as the largest source of electricity in the country.
A recent Columbia University study found that regulations accounted for 3.5 percent of coal's decline, while competition from natural gas accounted for around 49 percent.
Trump's pro-coal policies certainly won't hurt the industry, but the broad trends pushing the industry down are likely to continue, experts say. It's simple economics."