Coal, ash, and limestone samples from a fluidized bed combustion (FBC) plant, a pulverized coal combustion (PC) plant, and a cyclone (CYC) plant in Illinois were analyzed to determine the combustion behavior of mineral matter, and to propose beneficial uses for the power plant ashes. Pyrite and marcasite in coal were converted during combustion to glass, hematite and magnetite. Calcite was converted to lime and anhydrite. The clay minerals were altered to mullite and glass. Quartz was partially altered to glass. Trace elements in coal were partially mobilized during combustion and, as a result, emitted into the atmosphere or adsorbed on fly ash or on hardware on the cool side of the power plants. Overall, the mobilities of 15 trace elements investigated were lower at the FBC plant than at the other plants. Only F and Mn at the FBC plant, F, Hg, and Se at the PC plant and Be, F, Hg, and Se at the CYC plant had over 50% of their concentrations mobilized. Se and Ge could be commercially recovered from some of the combustion ashes. The FBC ashes could be used as acid neutralizing agents in agriculture and waste treatment, and to produce sulfate fertilizers, gypsum wall boards, concrete, and cement. The PC and CYC fly ashes can potentially be used in the production of cement, concrete, ceramics, and zeolites. The PC and CYC bottom ashes could be used in stabilized road bases, as frits in roof shingles, and perhaps in manufacturing amber glass. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.