To learn more about the fundamental roof behaviour in South African coal mines, accurate underground measurements of roof deflection were conducted in bord and pillar panels during development and pillar extraction. To conduct these measurements a survey levelling technique was adapted. The overall system reading accuracy was established as being within 0,4 mm on a 15 m sighting distance. The underground sites were modelled and, for a roadway development, similar symmetrical curvatures were calculated by a linear elastic model, as were measured underground. In a pillar extraction panel, a significant amount of bed separation was measured and the roof underwent an a-symmetric movement due to the close presence of the mined out area at one side of the roadway.