At first glance, Lightning Ridge is a charming small town situated on a vast and flat expanse of red dirt and native trees. What you won’t get at first glance is the hidden world that Lightning Ridge is renowned for; the birthplace of the beautiful black opal. What excitement lies beneath Lightning Ridge’s friendly smiles and quaint homes? For that, we’re going underground.
The unique lifestyle of Lightning Ridge isn’t for the fainthearted; locals live and breathe the elusive search for opal color. In this video, come along as we explore a mining claim and learn all about mining opal.
Let’s go mining in Lightning Ridge!
Justin introduces us to his good friend Dave, who knows more about opal mining and machinery than most. Dave has two opal bearing levels in his mine and shows Justin, Melinda, and Ben how he mines his claim. After learning about Dave’s claim, Melinda gets a lesson on the jackhammer and gives mining a short-lived go before Ben and Justin come in to do the hard work.
After filling up the truck (thanks, Dave!), we head to the opal washing plant to see if we’ve found any opal. The opal washing plant is a site where miners wash their truckloads of dirt in a machine called an agitator. An agitator is a cement mixer that has been repurposed into a giant opal washing machine. We load the agitator with opal dirt and wash with water; a process that can take a couple of days depending on how hard the dirt is. After the agitator washes the mud away we return to let the load out and see if we’re (hopefully) on opal.
Once the agitator has washed its load of opal dirt, it tumbles down to a tray to be sifted through. We were lucky enough to uncover a decent-sized opal nobby with a clear color bar running through it!
We hope you enjoy watching the opal mining process from Lightning Ridge, the town where most of our opals come from. Join us next week to watch Justin cut the opal nobby we found!