Lightning Ridge – a private opal mine

Lightning Ridge is famous for its black opal, the rarest and most valuable of the opal colours,  in fact it has become known as the black opal capital of the world.

Chris, our friend has promised us a day tour of his private opal mine in outback NSW, near Lightning Ridge.We arrange to meet Chris and Denise for breakfast at Monillas Cafe in the Ridge, (that’s the locals affectionate name for the town) the food was great, even if it was a bit cool outside. We then follow Chris and Denise the 40kms out to his own private opal mine. He takes us to his camp which is a couple of caravans set up with added wood stove in the tin shed attached between them, wash up facilities, with water from the tank and surrounded by old machinery and vehicles that are well past their use by date. The buildings and equipment are all recycled, nothing is thrown away, there is so much land around the camp so that it is easier just to abandon an item than pay for it to be disposed of .

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Down the mine shaft. The hole which Chris and his partner share their passion is 3ft x 3ft and they bucket the rock up and then send it to be washed and sorted hoping to find the precious opal.
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Outside dunny
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Wood stove, used for heating and cooking
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The mine is located on a private property, the farmer is happy to have the miners take up their lease on his land as he is paid a yearly lease fee. Travelling to the mine, we are passing through a massive depression, kilometres wide, that is normally dry, however the previous year had been extremely wet and the farmer planted a crop in this rich soil that stretched as far as the eye could see and was so thick and rich, that after harvest the straw looked like a raised mat, half a metre high
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Bringing the gravel from below, hopefully containing an opal, the rock is then placed in an agitator to wash the soil away from the gems
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Home sweet home
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Checking the vin number

 

 

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Climbing down the mine entrance. Too claustrophobic for me.
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