ABSTRACT: In the last few decades, a considerable amount of effort was directed at accurately determining the coal/pillar strength to use for safely designing coal mines. The outcome of this early work was the well known Obert-Duvall, Holland-Gaddy, Bieniawski, and Salamon-Munro equations for coal pillar strength. All of these equations were developed for, and were calibrated with, pillars in a large room-and-pillar area such that the loading could be determined using the "tributary-area" theory. In order to account for the abutment loads associated with full-extraction mining, the empirical methods have typically adopted a simple conceptualization of the abutment load through use of an "abutment angle." Short of a complete numerical or analytical analysis of the coal seam and surrounding strata, very little work has been directed toward refining the empirical analysis of pillar loading. It appears that the vast majority of the research has been directed at determining the pillar strength, the numerator of the safety factor equation, when the denominator of the safety factor equation, the pillar loading, plays an equally important role in pillar design. This paper will address the deficit of pillar loading research by exploring the accuracy of the empirical abutment load calculations using insight provided by an elastic overburden model, a laminated overburden model and field observations. Ultimately, it is determined that a constant abutment angle probably over-predicts the abutment load as the mining depth increases.

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