Interview with ‘Butch’
Its not often that you get an opal miner as cooperative as Butch, a long standing member of the Lightning Ridge Opal Mining community. I have known Butch since he was a young fella wheeling and dealing in opal parcels back and forth from the Cooceran and None Mile Opal fields, offering parcels to visiting dealers like myself during the heady days of the opal rush at Lightning Ridge.
Butch has always been an amiable guy. Not pushy. He shows you what he’s got. Points out the faults with a parcel. Helps you make some quick calculations to see if its worth the investment. Never gets upset if you don’t buy. Butch is an open book. Not every opal miner will take you down his mine and show you what he’s been doing and what he expects to find. As you will notice by this Video, Butch is a very helpful guy. We enjoyed a conversation after the video was taken and commiserated on the need for opal miners and dealers to work together to promote this amazing stone to the world, and it cannot be done unless we cooperate with videos like this that can be observed by a worldwide audience, thanks to the Internet. Opal mining at Lightning Ridge would not be the same without the likes of this man. The video in this site is from the NINE MILE field, where the opal level is quite shallow.
Opal Mining At Lightning Ridge was very much a secretive procedure
Back in the ‘old’ pre-Internet days. The only way a person in (for example) New York, would ever see the results of what is happening in this amazing place, would be to visit a high quality jewelry store on 5th Avenue or take a trip to Tucson Arizona where opal dealers would congregate once or twice a year.But now, you can visit sites like this one and go right to the source of the opal, in this case just a few meters underground. Here you can see opal mining taking place right before your eyes. Unfortunately the camera wasn’t good enough to pick up the tiny spots of color that Butch shows us, which are an indication that he could be ‘on’ to something, so we had to simulate the color to show what it actually looks like in the wall of the opal mine.
Opal Mining At Lightning Ridge is not what it used to be
This series of pictures are of the 6 foot 6″ German, Mike at his opal mine at the Cooceran field. Leigh and ‘Fritz’ the Alsation are near the trailor
When the Cooceran field (shown above) was discovered back in the early nineties, nearly everyone was on opal and you could see deals taking place on just about every corner of the town. Real estate prices went crazy. At times it was difficult to find a parking spot in the main Street. Sadly this has all changed now. Since that large opal field ran out, there has been very few new fields found and Opal Miners such as Butch are going over old diggings that were opened up probably 100 years ago, searching for little pockets that the old miners left behind. There’s still a little material coming out which keeps us going, but the parcels are getting fewer. Fortunately some of us bought good stocks back when the opal mining at Lightning Ridge was in its hay day,and we are still using those stocks today.
This is what opal mining at Lightning Ridge is all about. The end result of all the hard work