Today coal is among the most important energy sources. In order to meet the world's energy demands,
low-calorie lignite with a high ash content is generally used in the large capacity coal-fired thermal power plants. As a result of coal firing, wastes such as fly ash, slag, and flue gas are also produced. Subsequently, toxic trace elements within coal are transferred to wastes such as slag, fly ash, and flue gases. Large amounts of these, which are usually stored in collection ponds or stockpiles, are problematic in terms of environment. Although coal fly ash (CFA) has been utilized in construction and several other industries for decades, its current ratio of utilization is still quite limited. As an important fact, CFA also contains many valuable metals including germanium (Ge), gallium (Ga), vanadium (V), titanium (Ti), and aluminum (Al). In addtion, coal and CFA can be regarded as alternative sources of radioactive elements. Therefore, they also have a great potential in terms of the precious metals and trace elements they contain. In this study, the present literature on the distribution of trace elements in coal and coal ash during firing and ore preparation processes and their recovery possibilities with mineral processing practices are reviewed. While many research works on the subject clearly indicate that the large amounts of the ashes produced from firing of coal could be problematic in terms of environment, many studies and practices also show that coal combustion products also have a great potential in terms of the precious metals and trace elements.