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|The major proportion of South African coal is extracted by the bord-and-pillar mining method which requires that the overlying strata be supported by pillars of coal. The stability of the pillars is a major safety concern. One of the factors which affects the strength of coal pillars is the intensity and nature of discontinuities in the coal seams. Current design methods for pillars assume that al the coal seams have equal strength and are equally disturbed by natural discontinuities, resulting in over-designed pillars in some cases and potentially unstable pillars in others. Research was carried out to determine the nature of discontinuities in coal seams and to assess their potential effect on pillar strength. It was found that large variations exist in the intensity of discontinuities in the different coal seams being mined. In addition, numerical model studies showed that the discontinuities could significantly reduce pillar strength if the width-to-height ratio of the pillars is small, but the effect decreases as the width-to-height ratio increases.|