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|Open cast mining has been practiced in South Africa since the late1970s under near ideal geotechnical conditions. In the past decade, with the exhaustion of the traditional South African coal fields, geotechnical conditions have deteriorated. In addition, the nature of the open cast coal mining industry is changing from the conventional strip mining of virgin coal seams to the extraction of underground coal pillars by buffer blasted highwalls. These industry changes have resulted in the need to re-examine the manner in which geotechnical engineering is applied to highwall design. This paper proposes a geotechnical design rationale for open cast highwalls. Furthermore, the rationale takes cognizance of the various geotechnical hazards associated with conventional strip mining and pillar extraction by buffer blasted highwalls. The need to use geotechnical domain models and blasting geotechnics, as proactive tools for rock fall reduction, are also discussed.|