OPAL Industry Australia


New Opal Research by Australian Research Council

Maxine O’Brien, Secretary/Manager of the Lightning Ridge Miners’ Association Ltd has announced that the The Australian Research Council has agreed it was time to invest some funds into unravelling the secret of the Australian icon – Opal.  

 University of Sydney’s Patrice Rey and Adriana Dutkiewicz have secured funding of close to a quarter of million dollars over the next three years to investigate the origin of Australian opal deposits.  Some miners would remember Patrice from the 2005 and 2003 Opal Symposiums in Lightning Ridge and Quilpie.
Project Aims:

1. Investigate the role macroscopic and microscopic structural features associated with major opal fields play in the formation of precious opal.

2. Investigate the impact of intraplate (palaeo)-stresses and dynamic topography on the unique geological setting of the opal deposits.

3. Constrain fluid geochemistry and subsurface conditions under which opal forms using fluid inclusions in opal and associated cements, as well as opal and host rock geochemistries and use this information to elucidate the evolution and migration pathway of the opalising fluid.

4. Establish the role microbes play in the formation of opal by extracting paleofluids preserved within fluid inclusions in the opal.

5. Determine the age of opal genesis using direct U-Pb, 230Th-U and (U-Th)/He SHRIMP dating of opal deposits.

The team are keen to collaborate with as many people as possible on the various aspect of the opal mystery and will be looking for opal samples and the opportunity to visit mine sites. The project will commence in 2009. All results will be made public. The LRMA will be strongly supporting this project and will be looking for samples and mines to visit at all mining locations across the country.

We have had two groups of University students visit Lightning Ridge over the past few weeks. The first group were from the geology Department of the Australian National University in Canberra under the guidance of John Mavrogenes who some might remember as Katie Dowell’s supervisor. 

University students from ParisTech, France viewing the Jag Hill

University students from ParisTech, France viewing the Jag Hill

The second group visiting Lightning Ridge were from ParisTech, Paris, France and studying  geology and mining engineering.  The students were taken underground, to an open cut, processing site, cutting demonstration and a talk on opal fossils. Maxine extends her gratitude to opal the miners who volunteered their services and their claims: Fred Mallouk, Peter Drackett, Drago Panich, Aaron Bruce, Jenni Brammall and Elizabeth Smith, Daniela L’abbate and Christine Roussell.

The two student groups had a fantastic time respectively and we continue to spread the word about opal far and wide.  More students are encouraged to undertake this important research work on opal in their honour’s year.

Reprinted from: Coober Pedy Regional Times