The paper presents results of an experimental study on strength characteristics of the rock mass as applied to the assessment of open-pit slope stability. Formulas have been obtained that describe a correlation between ultimate and residual strength of rock samples and residual shear strength along the weakening surface. A new method has been developed to calculate residual interface strength of the rock mass basing on data from the examination of small-scale monolith samples with opposing spherical indentors. A method has been proposed to estimate strength characteristics (structural weakening coefficients and internal friction angles) of the fractured near-slope rock mass. The method relies on test data from shattering small-scale monolith samples with spherical indentors, taking into ac- count contact conditions along the weakening surface, and can be applied in the field conditions. It is acceptable to use irregular-shaped samples in thetests.