South African Coal Pillar Database

Merwe, J. N. van der
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 14
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2006
The research described in the paper was aimed at providing standardized information of cases of failed and intact coal pillars in the form of databases to researchers. It also offered the opportunity to take stock of the pillar stability situation in coalmining and to review the impact of the application of the safety factor formula for pillar design. It was found that the physical parameters of coalmining have not changed substantially over the last four decades. However, changes in the controllable parameters like pillar width, pillar width-to-height ratio and percentage extraction have all moved toward the more conservative side. Scrutiny of the database indicates that of all the failures recorded, only 23 occurred in panels that were mined after 1969, when one can assume that the safety factor formula was fully applied. If the pre-1969 practices had been continued, at least 144 collapses would have been expected. There has thus been a substantial reduction of pillar collapse cases, justifying the cost paid for the formula, which has shown to be in the region of 600 million tons of coal. It is evident that that are distinct differences in the natures of the failures among different coalfields. This justifies the attempts to derive seam or coal field specific strength formulae and is a topic that should be pursued.
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