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Although the mining of opal will always be the legacy of the New South Wales outback town of White Cliffs it can also lay claim to two other historical events, these being the birthplace of Australian test cricketer Bill O'Reilly, the son of the then schoolteacher in the town and the site of Australia's first solar power station. The original solar power station was built in 1981 and it produced 25KWs of electricity. It was updated in 1996 to produce 45 Kws.

Whitecliffs is located in the Central Darling Shire 255 kilometres north east of Broken Hill in NSW and in 2006 had a population of just under 120 people. It's major claim to fame is that it was the first area in Australia to have a commercially viable opal field. The first opal was discovered there in 1884 by a couple of station hands out kangaroo shooting.

The opals soon found themselves in the possession of geologist, Tullie Wollaston, after he travelled to the area to confirm the find. On meeting the station hands and examining their find he instantly became Australia's first opal buyer. He then set about promoting White Cliffs opal in Europe as the Hungarian opal had become exhausted some hundred years or so earlier. The White Cliff opal was suddenly in world demand and the first Australian commercial seam was in production. Because of its ease in cleaning, grading and cutting into a prized gemstone it soon became known around the world and this recognition is still as strong as ever today.

From 1890, for the next 30 years, White Cliffs grew into a small settlement that was supported by commercial mining of opal that was supplying a world demand for the precious gem. An opal such as the White Cliffs opal, with its strikingly vivid colours, had never been seen before, as it far surpassed the quality of the Hungarian opal.

White Cliffs experienced a succession of opal strikes during the late 1800's well into the 1900's and as a result the township grew to accommodate 2000 odd miners and all the necessary service providers that such a population demands. Building materials were in short supply and hard to come by out in the arid near desert environment of White Cliffs, therefore, the close by mining town of Nutharungi had to be dismantled and re- constructed in White Cliffs. People who weren't so fortunate decided to live underground with their mines becoming their homes. This practice continues at White Cliffs today.

The peak opal mining year at White Cliffs occurred in 1902 when 140,000 pounds of opal was produced. For the next decade opal finds at White Cliffs decreased and when the first world war broke out miners left to fight the war. Trading with Germany also ceased and White Cliffs never recovered.

Opal is still mined at White Cliffs but living conditions, although still harsh, are not as extreme as in the earlier years when water had to be carted in from 100 kilometres away by horse or camel. Much of the water was cholera-infected and many people, particularly children died of typhoid.

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Following are the resources mined at White Cliffs

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