Lightning Ridge has many different opal fields or mines in and around it. The opal from each mine and area can differ from black opal to white opal and even grey opal. The opal mines in Lightning Ridge, like the 3 Mile Flat, have produced some of the most beautiful black and crystal opal gemstones the world has ever seen.
Opal, in general around the ridge, is of gem quality when it is found, but finding it is a different story. Many people have tried to find opal and failed over and over again. Only a few select people have made it big, and I mean really made it. By finding millions of dollars worth.
The opal mines are a rugged place to live whilst the money can be good, the standard of living can be poor. But the camping lifestyle has a real romantic appeal to it. Most opal miners live in camps made from tin and pine trees and a toilet over an old mine shaft called a long drop. I will let your imagination figure out why it’s called a long drop.
Machinery is scattered everywhere, and wildlife and be found, from Kangaroos to poisonous snakes and lizards.
Millions of dollars are spent every year moving dirt out of holes in the ground, and only a small percentage actually find opal. Black opal is even more rare to find. And gem black opal is extremely rare.
Lightning Ridge opal mines have funny names for local fields like Coocoran, Kitty Hawk, Olgas, Wyoming, Snake Gully, Jag Hill, etc. Every one of these opal fields produces different types of opal and pattern. Some have nobby opal, and fields have seam opal, but most opal fields have both types, except the Grawin field only has seam opal.
The opal mines in the Ridge have started to deplete in opal supply since the world economies have slowed and diesel prices have risen. Opal has not been as viable to process the dirt since the price of opal is not what it used to be. It is a good time to invest in opal since the market has become a little slow. Hopes in Lightning Ridge are still high, and many miners believe the opal market will come back soon.