As a regular to the Opal Fields & a previous owner of an Opal mine I thought today I would just give a brief overview of what Opal mining is about.
The Basic Process
So if you are only one person and you fancy a bit of mining you are in luck as a single person can handle the simplest form of Opal mining. The miner digs a vertical shaft through layers of earth. Opal is usually found under a layer of hard sandstone.
Once the miner has reached the layer of "potch," the glassy, gray earth that may contain opals. The waste material is hauled out of the shaft with buckets as the miner drives horizontally, chasing the opal seam. If opals are found, they are removed with small mining tools due to their fragility.
Stepping it up a Level
This is where we get equipment involved, technology has been used as much as possible to increase success and productivity. Drilling machines using an auger bucket are generally used to create test shafts. Promising digs utilize tunneling machines with rotating cutting heads. Small front loaders and mechanized conveyors are used to remove overburden.
Larger Opal Mining Operations
The largest form of opal mining is called Open cut mining. This is when large excavating equipment is used to remove the overburden from the surface. It is still a fairly delicate process to sort through the promising material due to the fact that the opal can be easily damaged.
I'll go into some of my past experiences in future blogs.
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