on . Posted in South Australian Opal Mines

IMG 0962Mintabie – Although discovered in the 1920's by a well-sinker named Larry O'Toole, it was not until the mid 1970’s that extensive mining began here. As far back as the First World War, Aborigines sold black opal at Coober Pedy which most likely came from Mintabie - 254 km to the northwest. 

Red sand dunes covered vast amounts of Opal bearing sandstone much of which has been excavated almost exclusively by open-cutting (50mx50m) claims to a depth of 20 meters and as far down as 40 meters. During the 1980’s Mintabie was the major source of crystal opal and produced excellent semi-black opal.

The opal from Mintabie has a reputation for being harder than most, which perhaps bears some correlation to the fact it is found in Ordovician (500 to 440 m.y.a.) rocks, much older than the Cretaceous (144-65m.y.a.) rocks which host most of Australia‘s deposits.


The distinctive creamy-white sandstone found at Mintabie opal fields is much harder and compact than at other opal fields. This exacerbated the challenges faced by the early opal miners and it was not until the late 1970's that a Croatian miner named Milan Rako led the way with heavy machinery; he discovered a mother-load of opal on the escarpment. Thus began a rush of bulldozers and eager men to Mintabie which lasted more than a quarter century.

“At the peak (mid 1980’s) there were around 70 bulldozers working and Mintabie opal field held the distinction of the highest per capita use of diesel of any town in Australia.” - Peter Blythe

The original diggings, known as Mintabie’s Old field, are nearest the township on the south-eastern side of the escarpment which runs north-south. Opal formed parallel to the escarpment for approximately 10 kms and mostly into a system of sand dunes to the west which are permeated by small valleys. Crystal Valley was discovered in the next valley up, followed by the Airport field, Goose’s, Gus’, Kingfisher and Grasshoppers at the northern most end of the scarped ridge.

In October 1981, the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act came into force and Mintabie township & opal fields are now part of a large area of freehold Aboriginal land.

Mintabie's population peaked at around 1,500 residents in 1988, but has declined steadily to approximately 250 today.


Sue-White opals29 June 2013
Dear Rainbow Serpent,
Thank you for your email and membership.
It is great to know that you are out there promoting Australia's National gemstone & NSW emblem.
Keep up the good work, I love your concept.
Sue White - Orana Glitz & Glamour Extravaganza Inc Assn.

15 march 2013
Hi Peter,
Colourful characters are key,
your Facebook page and the photos look like there are some fantastic people!
We loved the look of Tarzan of Opalton.
Gemma Brady - Boundless

Alexander fink.PhysicsPHD opal28 Nov 2012
I would like to welcome your information page on opal,
with detailed information about nearly everything their is to know in a general term.
Alexander Fink PhD - Dept. of Physics La Trobe University

5 August 2010
Hi from another opal lover.
Just wanted to say I love your site, a wealth of information.
I always send people to your page for opal info.
Kind Regards
Sean Tapner - Planet Opal

8 july 2010
Dear Rainbow Serpent,
Will be recommending your website as a primary reference to 15 Macquarie Uni media students who will be doing a PR project for us as part of their assessment soon.
Best wishes
Renata - Opalminded

Opalminded recommend opalsinformation6 June 2010
Dear Rainbow Serpent, 
Greetings from Opal Minded In Sydney.
We are all very impressed with your website – one of the best things that has happened to this Industry for a long time. 
We would love to share it with the visitors to our website. 
Would you mind If we post with us links to your website, 
also on our facebook and twitter. 
Best wishes
Renata, John, Nelly, Fabrice and Summer

Fri, Apr 16, 2010 
Good Morning,
I have just found your wonderful website.
I produce a monthly e-newsletter which is circulated to the Tourism businesses in Coober Pedy and neighbouring stations plus the Info Centres around SA & the NT.
I wondered if I could use some of your Opal info in my October Edition (Opal Month), mainly the parts in your “About Opal” section – names, spiritual info etc.
I would obviously reference it to your website noting the address so others could read your site. 
Sandra Harris
Tourism Officer - Coober Pedy Information Centre

5 April 2010
I am wanting to use your site in an assignment as it is a superb example
of a site to use for a primary teaching unit on gemstones.
Many thanks,