Some of the inherent cations of Victorian brown coals have been exchanged for iron by treatment with solutions of iron salts. Coals with various iron contents are obtained by variation of the pH of the solutions used. Hydrogenation of coals treated in this way at 395 °C, and an initial hydrogen pressure of 10 MPa, give product yields similar to those obtained using commercial cobalt molybdate on alumina catalysts, and greater than those obtained using red mud as a catalyst. The increase in yields compared with non-catalysed experiments results mainly from increased production of asphaltenes. The amount and composition of gas (80-90 wt% C02, resulting from decarboxylation) remains constant. Despite the similar conversions, the hydrogen consumption and tetralin/naphthalene ratios for iron-catalysed experiments are less than for cobalt-molybdate-catalysed experiments.