Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is a strange little place and hard to get a grasp on. It’s the Opal capital of the world, Australia produces some 90% of the worlds Opal and Coober Pedy is responsible for most of that. I personally don’t see the attraction with the gem but good quality natural opal doublets are worth more than diamonds carat for carat!!!

The name Coober Pedy comes from ‘kupa piti’ which means white man in a hole. The opal is mined from seams below the ground which are accessed through small holes. A hole about 1 metre in diameter is sunk into the ground and when the hole reaches opal dirt, the mine then branches out following the opal level. The aim is to locate a seam of a glassy gray potch which hopefully will take on quantities of gem opal. There is no sure way of finding opal, all you can do is sink a hole and hope for the best. And thats exactly what they do, in the mining area around the town there are thousands and thousands of unmarked holes everywhere so be very careful where you walk.

The mining in the town is exclusively small claims only – no big businesses. Anyone can stake a claim for a nominal fee and have a go. Sounds good but there is a large investment involved. Buying or renting equipment isn’t that cheap. Fuel is the huge cost now too, one miner told me that on his last forray he spent $40,000 in 6 months on diesel alone. Thats a large hole in the bank account for a small hole in the ground!!! He managed to extract about $100,000 of opal but you can see how it is a bit of a risk.

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