Didn’t make it to Australia in 2010 as we took an opal buying trip to Ethiopia…to see first hand where the opals are found and what the opal supply is like coming out of Welo province. But I’ve heard much news from friends in Coober Pedy and the news is again discouraging. There has been little exploration done and the old reliable fields are still being re-worked. And opal production continues to decline.
Seems like every month or two brings a new, large open-pit or underground ore mine on line in the far north of South Australia…where Coober Pedy is located. These large ore mines are one of the reasons that opal production continues to dwindle. The miners working at these large ore mines are VERY well paid…leaving the economically risky opal mines to work for steady high wages.
Every year I find fewer opal miners and fewer still with opal for sale. The baby boomer generation of miners are starting to retire and there aren’t many young miners willing to take their place when steady high wages can be found in the large mines. Opal mining is an alternative lifestyle with much freedom, but with that freedom comes a big helping of risk and uncertainty.