Coal mine pillar design formulae available to mine planners are typically based on relationships determined for specific site conditions. Application of these methods is difficult when other factors, relating to mining or geological conditions, not specifically addressed in these relationships are encountered. A review of pillar design methods, coal strength properties and relevant field monitoring of pillar behaviour has shown pillar strength and deformational characteristics are extremely sensitive to in situ behaviour of the rock and other material components that make up the coal pillar system. A method has been developed that has been found to provide excellent correlation between existing field data using the strength and deformational characteristics of materials determined in selected laboratory tests. This method is based on definition of the loading conditions, accurate modelling of the strength, confining conditions and deformation occuring in the roof, floor and coal seam and definition of the in situ strength of coal based on underground monitoring of appropriately sized coal pillar. The design method is considered to provide an accurate and rigorous pillar design method that will give mine planners a more rational mine design capability which is based on the mine geometry and geological setting of the operation. It is envisaged that availability of such a method will allow significant optimisation of pillar layouts and more closely define the geological and mining issues that relate to pillar design optimisation.