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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coober Pedy, South Australia

Coober Pedy is the largest opal mining area in the world. If you wish to look for opal, you need to get a mining permit and an explosives permit which involves a criminal record check by police, then you will be allocated a claim 50m x 100m.

Serbian Orthodox Church
There are no big mining companies in Coober Pedy because finding opal is so unpredictable, they can't forecast future earnings, it's too much of a gamble. Eighty five percent of all claims in Coober Pedy have not produced opal.

Underground Museum
So Coober Pedy is a town full of little battlers dreaming of a big strike. Miners came from all over the world and there are 45 different nationalities in the town.

Dog fence - longest fence in the world

Although opal was discovered in 1915, it wasn't until the 1960s that hundreds of eager young men from Europe flocked to Coober Pedy to purchase mining rights to small parcels of land.

If a miner has some success in finding opal, he will probably get what they call 'opal fever' and dedicate the rest of his life to finding more. This has resulted in some sad tales of broken marriages and wasted life savings but also stories of great wealth and success.

Tourists aren't allowed in the mine fields anymore, too many have been killed falling down the thousands of gaping holes. One young woman walked to the top of pile of dirt to take a photo when suddenly it collapsed under her, two men grabbed her and all three fell down the shaft.

Coober Pedy is an ugly place, man and his search for riches has completely ruined the already bleak landscape. It's easy to believe that this landscape was once an ocean bed 200 million years ago.

18 hole golf course

There are holes and mounds of dirt in every direction, it's a wonder there is any spare land left and it's so hot in the summer, around 40 to 65C in the opal fields, people live underground to escape the heat.

The greenies want all the holes filled in but if they did, nobody would know where previous shafts had been and dangerous cave-ins would occur when new shafts were dug near to old ones, so they stay with the ugliness.

They made Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert here

Cooper Pedy is a town of optimistic, hard working people, who believe they are just metres away from success.