Opal Mines

There are many different opal fields in Australia. Most of the opal fields are in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.

All of the opal fields produce white and crystal opal and only 2 opal fields produce black opal.  Lightning Ridge and Mintabie have produced black opal.

Most opal found is in seam form in fissures or rock cavities. The only place in the world that produces nobby opal is Lightning Ridge.

Lightning Ridge Mines Sign

All of these opal mining fields are on the edge of an ancient inland sea. The edges along the shores are where the opal is found, that is why we have a lot of fossil opal – like shells, crustaceans and amphibians.

When looking for a good producing opal field, you must make sure that you are prospecting on the edge of the ancient inland sea. These ridges that you will find on edge will or should have opal-bearing levels. Ranging from 1 foot deep to under the water table is about 150 feet below the surface.

Most old opal fields are moon-like landscapes with pitted holes and mullock heaps scattered everywhere on the land. Some opal mines have been mined out, leaving gaping holes in the ground or open cut mines bear to the sky.

Entering an opal field is a dangerous place to visit. The chance of the roof of a mine caving can be fatal. Also, walking on the top of an old opal claim can be dangerous due to mine shafts and collapsing ground. Most mining fields are now closed to fossickers for everyone’s safety, and you need to ask permission to enter the fields.

Scattered opal fields are old mining equipment that has either been left to rot or is still in use. Some of the contraptions people have tried to build to get opal dirt out of the ground are strange and creative machines.

Opal mining equipment gets put through some pretty rough treatment, and breakdowns are common, leaving the miner to earn some more money by getting a job to repair their mining equipment and keep mining later.

People live out on the opal fields on residential claims called camps. Most of the camps are made from corrugated iron, caravans or old buses. Only the people who have found enough opal to support their life have built a house out in the middle of the mining fields.

Lightning Ridge Mines Nighttime

Most opal miners’ work from autumn to spring. Summertime temperatures can get up to 50 degrees Celsius and put too much strain on the miner and his equipment. Thus, making breakdowns much more frequent.  In Coober Pedy, most people live underground to escape the heat, but the ground is too soft and dangerous to build underground shelters in Lightning Ridge. So most people leave for the summer.

The opal fields are a harsh environment and not for the faint-hearted. A holiday there is highly recommended, but to live there, you have to be a special breed of people who likes to be alone and happy with their own company.

The year 1849 witnessed the birth of opal when it was discovered near Adelaide, Australia. Australia possesses the majority of the opal pedigree, but a minor proportion of opal is also found in Brazil and the United States.

Australia has three main opal fields. The majority of opal is found in the regions of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia. Opals such as white opals are found in parts of South Australia in Coober Pedy. Black opals are located in New South Wales. Boulder opals are found in Queensland.

The famous Lightning Ridge in the region of New South Wales engraves the most beautiful Black opals. Black opals were first found some 125 years ago. Secondly, White cliffs are regarded as the most celebrated commercial opal fields in the world. These are placed some 300 kilometres away from Broken Hill. The first opals were found in the late 1880s and had become the hub of the opal market. The opal resources in Queensland were found in the early 1870s when quality boulder opals were found in the parts of Thargomindah. Queensland has opals situated in Yowah, Jundah, Quilpie and Eromanga.

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