The Yanzhou mining area in west Shandong Province, China contains coals of Permian and Carboniferous age. The 31 and 32 seams of the Permian Shanxi Formation and seams 6, 15-17 of the Carboniferous Taiyuan Formation were analyzed for coal petrology, mineralogy and geochemical parameters. The parameters indicate that the coal is high volatile bituminous in rank. The coal is characterized by high vitrinite and low to medium inertinite and liptinite contents. These properties may be related to evolution of the coal forming environment from more reducing conditions in a marine influenced lower delta plain environment for the early Taiyuan coals to more oxidizing paleoenvironments in an upper delta plain for the upper Shanxi coal seams. The major mineral phases present in the coal are quartz, kaolinite, pyrite and calcite. Sulfur is one of the hazardous elements in coal. The major forms of sulfur in coal are pyritic, organic and sulfate sulfur. Pyritic and organic sulfur generally account for the bulk of the sulfur in coal. Elemental sulfur also occurs in coal, but only in trace to minor amounts. In this paper, the distribution and concentration of sulfur in the Yanzhou mining district are analyzed, and the forms of sulfur are studied. The sulfur content of the Taiyuan coal seams is considerably higher than that of the Shanxi coals. Organic sulfur content is positively correlated to total and pyritic sulfur. The vertical variation of Cu, Zn, Pb, As, Th, U and sulfur contents in coal seam 3 of the Shanxi Formation in the Xinglongzhuang mine show that all these trace elements, with the exception of Th, are enriched in the top and bottom plies of the seam, and that their concentrations are also relatively high in the dirt bands within the seam. The pyritic sulfur is positively correlated with total sulfur, and both are enriched in the top, bottom and parting plies of the seam. The concentrations of the trace elements are closely related to sulfur and ash contents. Most of the trace elements are correlated with the ash content, and may be associated with the mineral matter in the coal. ?? 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.