It’s been a while since good opal mining news has come out of Coober Pedy. But thankfully a closed portion of Shellpatch Opalfield has been reopened.
In 1977 part of the Coober Pedy Precious Stones Field, really portions of the Shellpatch Opalfield about 22 miles north of Coober Pedy, were prohibited from mining because of Aboriginal cultural importance. But due to a new agreement with local indigenous groups this prohibited area has been reopened by the South Australian Government March 16 2017.
John Dunstan…vice president of the Coober Pedy Opal Miners Association characterized the ballot for new opal claims like the good old days of opal mining. There were 221 miners present for the ballot but only 50 were fortunate enough to peg a claim on some of the most valuable ground with opal indications. After the first 50 were drawn with the best indications to find opal, the mines department opened pegging for the rest of the miners present. As they say with gold mining…opal can be found where you really don’t expect it.
The opal found at Shellpatch contains a lot of beautiful gemmy opalized shells and other fossils and is known for being healthy opal (opal that doesn’t crack or craze). The anticipation right now is that this reopened land will help relieve the opal shortage that has troubled Coober Pedy the last few years and will draw new opal miners to Coober Pedy that may soon discover more fields in this huge opal deposit.
Word has it that opal miners aren’t wasting time and there are already two drilling rigs on field and ready to go. The new land available for pegging is comprised of 3 areas: Shellpatch Bore, Sputnik Bore and Stuart Range Bore which total 1.65 square kilometers…not a large area but very promising for finding opal.
I’ve personally been buying opal from John Dunston since our first trip to Australia in 2000 and will be returning in September of 2017 for another buying trip and to visit with John and see if he has a parcel for sale. He said he wasn’t in the first 50 drawn, but he thinks that his claim may be a winner nonetheless. Hopefully you will see several new parcels of Shellpatch available on our website beginning this fall. During my trips to Coober Pedy in May of 2014 and again in May of 2016 it was a struggle to find good parcels of opal and prices were extremely high.