Here in the very early stages of a powerful long-term bull market for coal, I find it astonishing to witness the apparent indifference among most investors toward coal mining stocks.

If it takes the best-positioned company in the business to finally convey the complete picture of what is transpiring here, then so be it. Like this Fool, Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) is done mincing words.

Peabody chairman and CEO Gregory Boyce states the case as clearly as possible: "Peabody believes that the global coal industry is in the early stages of a long term supercycle, led by China and India. Peabody's access to these key markets represents significant value creation opportunity."

Value creation, indeed! Peabody doubled its prior-year earnings with a $0.99-per-share bonanza during the third quarter. Although these shares stand 40% beneath the peak reached before the collapse of commodity stocks in 2008, Peabody believes that full-year results for 2010 could rival the company's own prior record. The miner's $884 million haul in cash flow from operations through the first three quarters of 2010 does mark a fresh company record. For the third quarter, Peabody expanded margins by 8% throughout U.S. operations and doubled its margins down under thanks to higher volumes, better pricing, and lower costs.

Meanwhile, Peabody continues to realize rapid capacity expansion within its Australian operations. In Newcastle, where competitor BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP) has joined forces with Peabody and other miners to expand the port's capacity, Peabody anticipates an additional 2 million tons of annual throughput forthcoming. Dry bulker Diana Shipping (NYSE: DSX) has even commissioned purpose-built Newcastlemax vessels to maximize handling capacity at the port. Removing these infrastructure bottlenecks will permit Australian producers to remain at the forefront in satisfying this growing pan-Asian demand for coal.

Building upon the encouraging signals of persistent strength in Chinese demand telegraphed by steelmaker POSCO (NYSE: PKX) and mining equipment giant Joy Global (Nasdaq: JOYG), Peabody points to a 19% increase in China's coal-fired power generation -- and a 15% rise in steel production -- as current examples of the long-term trend to follow. Peabody explains:

Longer term, the ongoing economic development in China and India is anticipated to continue for decades, requiring vast amounts of electricity and steel. Over the next five years, approximately 390 gigawatts of new coal-fueled generation are expected to be installed around the world and would require 1.2 billion tonnes of additional coal annually. Global steel consumption is projected to increase more than 30 percent, which will require more than 300 million tonnes of new metallurgical coal supply.

If that's the sort of global trend you think you might like a slice of, I've already identified my top five picks for the next 20 years. Peabody remains a core holding within my silverminer CAPS portfolio, and a four-star favorite among CAPS investors. Join the free community of investors like you, and cast your vote today.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns shares of Peabody, BHP Billiton, and Diana Shipping. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Motley Fool scrubs its disclosure policy before releasing it into the atmosphere.