Sustainability means many different things in today’s world. When talking about opal and gemstones at large, the concept becomes more nuanced. Of course, we need to acknowledge the stark fact that the production of beautiful gems involves mining and that once we remove them from the ground, there is no short-term regeneration of the mineral.

For us, the term sustainability relates not only to the mining but also to the sustenance of the communities that mining supports and nourishes. CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, defines sustainability in relation to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the jewelry industry finds itself uniquely positioned to serve as a catalyst for economic and social development.

“Our goal must be that citizens of these countries should be able to leverage the natural resources with which they have been blessed into sustainable economic and social opportunity. Unlike in the past, where they were primarily regarded as a source of raw materials, our commitment now must be that they extend their involvement up the value chain, developing home-grown cutting and polishing industries, precious metal refineries, jewelry design and manufacturing hubs, and wholesale and retail trading networks. This does not mean undermining the existing centres. On the contrary, in an interconnected global industry we will all benefit from their development and the growth of the market in general.”

Dr Gaetano Cavalieri, CIBJO President

Dr Gaetano Cavalieri, CIBJO President

For the Australian opal industry, this concept of sustainability is being achieved successfully and the benefits found in the outback communities of Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge bear testament to this. Our suppliers; the miners and the dealers working on the ground in these communities are directly supported by Black Opal Direct as we commit to paying fair value for our opal, supporting fundraising efforts in the community, and encouraging the world to visit and enjoy our slice of outback paradise.

Caring for the Environment

Environmental sustainability in opal mining has always been paramount. For the last several decades, mining leases and areas are tightly controlled by the relevant mines departments in each state. There are proscribed areas for mining and prospecting activity and miners work alongside land owners in ensuring the land is cared for during and after mining.

The majority of the Lightning Ridge opal fields form part of Narran-Warrambool Reserve and so there are strict rules of the size of claims as well as the term a claim can be held. On a positive side for the environment, the rules do not allow for large scale mining and claims can only be taken out by individuals.

When mining has been concluded by a miner, each claim must be rehabilitated. All holes must be filled and all evidence of mining removed from the site including steel and machinery. A security deposit is taken initially and without this rehabilitation, the deposit is forfeited. The Lightning Ridge Miners Association also undertakes general rehabilitation of larger areas.

For an example of hour a site can be rehabilitated after mining, please see the images below from Tyrones 2 Opal Field.

Tyrones 2 Opal Field (Before & After)

Before Tyrone 2 (July 2019)
After Tyrone 2 (August 2020)
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