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What: Foresight Energy LP's (NYSE:FELP) shares plummeted just shy of 45% last month. That's a brutal drop for a company that saw its shares tumble nearly 80% in 2015. This coal company just keeps getting hit.

So what: Foresight Energy is one of the largest coal miners in the Illinois Basin coal region, competing directly with Alliance Resource Partners (NASDAQ:ARLP). Although this coal area has been holding up better than others in the United States, it hasn't been spared from falling thermal coal demand stemming from a combination of stiffer environmental regulations and low-priced natural gas. And as 2015 came to a close, those hits were starting to take their toll, with even Alliance saying it would need to curtail production -- after expanding its output for years while competitors pulled in their horns.

So Foresight, like other coal miners, is dealing with a difficult market environment, and the pain is spreading into even the best coal regions. But that's not the whole story here. For example, 2015 ended on a bad note for the miner, as it received a notice of default on a revolving credit agreement at the start of December. Although the company's lenders appear to be working with it to find an agreeable resolution, nothing came of those discussion by the end of January. The longer this lingers, the more concerned investors are likely to become. And, to make matters worse, in early January Foresight explained that a fire at one of its key mines had yet to be contained. The hits just keep coming.

Now what: It's pretty clear that Foresight is in a difficult spot right now. Although the Illinois Basin coal region is better positioned than most, Foresight, with its own personal struggles, isn't the best way to gain exposure. For that, you'll want to consider Alliance Resource Partners. However, the price of both miners have been under pressure, so only contrarians with strong stomachs should even consider looking at the moribund coal space right now.

Reuben Brewer has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Alliance Resource Partners. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.