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ANDAMOOKA

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Although opal mining in Andamooka, 600 kilometres north of the South Australian capital of Adelaide, has been quite rewarding for many, most people living there today either work at the nearby Olympic Dam uranium/copper mine or at Roxby Downs, others live there in their retirement. However, there remains a population of over 500 people permanently living in Andamooka and it still draws a considerable number of 'tourists' and others seeking out a valuable opal find of their own.

Opal Found at Andamooka in 1930

Although opal was discovered in the Andamooka region of South Australia in 1930, it remained a scattering of miners camps for many years. Over the years some people began to put down roots and began making a living from the mining of opal and the beginnings of a town started to take shape. An Andamooka Opal Fields Post Office was finally opened on January 13, 1947. A sealed road was put through to the town during the 1990's and it became administered by the Outback Areas Community Development Trust, a South Australian State Government body. It has the following unique attributes:


• For most of its existence the Andamooka Opal Fields had no reliable water supply, a serious situation in such an arid semi desert environment. People living in the town were fully reliant on water being trucked in from Roxby Downs. However, in more recent times a water pipeline has been constructed feeding from the town's water tanks. These tanks remain reliant on water being trucked in to keep them serviceable.
• It has been traditional for the residents of Andamooka to live in dug out houses built into the side of a hill. Underground houses of this nature have served to keep the residents cooler during the hot summer months and warmer during the cold desert winters. These houses are only seen along the main street these days as more traditional houses fitted with air conditioning have been brought in from Woomera, a nearby military town.
• The climate at the Andamooka Opal Fields is one of a semi-desert environment. It can be quite comfortable between the months of March and November, although the nights can become quite cold. Summer temperatures take over between the months of December and February when, more often than not, the daytime temperature, in the shade, hovers around 35 degrees Celsius. The area experiences the occasional dust storm as average annual rainfall is only 175mm, or five inches.
• Two boundary riders working at the Andamooka Station in 1930 are credited with finding the first opal in what is now known as the Andamooka opal fields. Because of the lack of water, no underground water and low rainfall, together with the harsh climate, many prospectors stayed away. The second world war also slowed down development. After the war, by 1962, there was a rush to the opal fields and it was estimated that there were up to 800 diggings taking place there at any one time. The area containing opal takes in around 52 square kilometres on the Arcoona Plateau. Mining generally takes the form of large bore holes and small tunnels although there are some open pits. Most of the opal is found at a depth of from three to ten metres below the surface on what was once an ancient ocean floor.

In all there are a total of 24 separate opal fields at Andamooka where opalised shells are found lying among the bones of pre-historic dinosaurs. The opal recovered from Andamooka is considered by experts to be the most stable in the world.



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