Mintabie, Opal Mining Town
The small town of Mintabie has a population of about 300. Over 100 opal miners work their claims on the Mintabie Opal Fields or nearby Lambina Station. Aborigines were reportedly the first people to find opal at Mintabie. They sold black opal at Coober Pedy during the first world war. Because of the isolation and lack of water, it was many years before miners settled the area. The first miners in Mintable found the sandstone too hard to mine. Large machinery was introduced in 1976.
The estimated value of raw opal production in South Australia from Coober Pedy, Mintabie and Andamooka was $40.7m in 1997. Most opal is exported to Hong Kong, Japan, United States of America and Germany.
Mintabie sits in a geographical basin with a lake basin near the town. The lake is fed by many small surrounding creeks. In the past 20 years, it has been filled only twice. The first time was in 1988, when high rainfall filled the lake to capacity and the lake retained water for three years. Rains in 2000 again filled the lake. The lake is once again dry.
In 1981 the South Australia Parliament passed the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981, and includes the Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra groups. This result was at the end of protracted and often bitter negotiations. The small parcel of land on which the township of Mintabie sits was leased back to the Crown.
The original township lease expired in 2002. In 2009, the South Australian Parliament passed the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights (Mintabie) Amendment Act 2009, creating the framework for a new lease.
For years the Mintabie Opal Fields have been one of the world's largest producer of opal. Today Mintabie is an active and vibrant community producing many millions of dollars worth of Australia's national gemstone each year.
Living on the opalfield has its moments:
Little girl lost
Ripe Red Tomatoes
The Missing Ratter