It has been widely reported that coal permeability can change from reduction to enhancement due to gas adsorption even under the constant effective stress condition, which is apparently inconsistent with the classic theoretical solutions. This study addresses this inconsistency through explicit simulations of the dynamic interactions between coal matrix swelling/shrinking induced damage and fracture aperture alteration, and translations of these interactions to permeability evolution under the constant effective stress condition. We develop a coupled coal-gas interaction model that incorporates the material heterogeneity and damage evolution of coal, which allows us to couple the progressive development of damage zone with gas adsorption processes within the coal matrix. For the case of constant effective stress, coal permeability changes from reduction to enhancement while the damage zone within the coal matrix develops from the fracture wall to further inside the matrix. As the peak Langmuir strain is approached, the decrease of permeability halts and permeability increases with pressure. The transition of permeability reduction to permeability enhancement during gas adsorption, which may be closely related to the damage zone development in coal matrix, is controlled by coal heterogeneity, external boundary condition, and adsorption-induced swelling. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Wien.