Our family have been Opal mining since 1973. Andrews toy is an old D9H Cat bulldozer. Andrew is 77 years old and still mining today. He uses the bulldozer to open cut our claim down to about 15ft, looking for the level where the opal generally occurs.
The drilling rig is like a big post-hole digger, once the bucket fills up it has to be brought up and emptied. Maximum depth varies a little but its about 90 feet, or 30m. Coober Pedy is pitted with many thousands of abandoned shafts
You may have seen looking machines as you drove through the opal fields, on your way to Coober Pedy. A blower is like a giant vacuum cleaner. purpose built for opal mining in Coober Pedy. Blowers are attached to a small tractor with a rotating cutting head on it, or better known as a tunneling machine. Tunneling machines, with their revolving cutting heads, are used to dig through the ground and can tunnel at about 12ft (4m) per hour. Considering it used to be done by hand, with pick and shovel, technology has gone a long way for miners.
Noodling machines are used by passing the rocks and dirt onto a conveyor belt under an ultraviolet light to show the colour. Anybody that wants to search through the disregarded dirt and rocks bought up by a Drill is free to do so. Just remember to stay away from any dumps which look like they are still being used.
Any miner with a mining permit can peg a claim of 50m x 50m or 50m x 100m in which ever area they like as long as it is outside the town. A partnership can be formed between any number of miners but usually it's between two to four trusted people. First a prospecting shaft can be drilled into the earth with a Calweld drill. This drill can dig a maximum depth of 100 feet, as the bucket is emptied it is searched through. Bulldozers move dirt to make an open cut and show where the level is, and any seam of opal is worked by handpicks to remove it. Any opal found is divided up between the partners according to what they have previously negotiated.