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|The current methodology to design stope support systems in South African gold and platinum mines is based upon the tributary area concept. The discontinuous nature of the hangingwall rock is not adequately addressed, and mechanisms leading to rock mass failures between adjacent support units are poorly understood. The work reported here aims to formulate a basis for quantifying support mechanisms and gain insights into the influence of rock discontinuities on stable hangingwall spans. Numerical models are used to qualitatively investigate the stress transfer from the support units to the discontinuous hangingwall. Stable hangingwall spans are quantified by considering two failure mechanisms, namely (i) beam buckling, and (ii) shear failure due to slip at the abutments. The output of the proposed design methodology is appropriate site specific support spacing, based on discontinuity spacing and orientation. The method is particularly suited to mines at intermediate and great depth, where typically the hangingwall is highly discontinuous due to face parallel mining induced fractures. Results of parametric studies show that with increasing in situ compressive hangingwall stress, beam thickness and friction angle, hangingwall stability is increased, leading to wider stable hangingwall spans between adjacent support units.|