I recently had the great pleasure of being able to visit some friends in the opal industries Boulder Opal mine. The mine is 3 and a half hours drive west of Winton along narrow, mostly unsealed dirt road in an area known as Diamantina. The Diamantina area is best known for a few things; one being the very good quality beef production that is supplied to all over Australia, and exported to parts of the world. The second being the amazing Diamantina National Park; with beautiful Gorges and waterfalls; this is an area of Queensland that a lot of tourists do not see as it is far off the beaten path. The Boulder Mine is not part of the national park; however it is nearby. No area in Australia would be able to be mined if it was part of a national park. To me, the area reminded me a lot of the dessert in Nevada, USA. Huge Boulder formations and stunning landscapes, this part of Australia is unlike any other. The third thing that Diamantina is most famous for is its stunning quality of Boulder Opals. There is only one Boulder mine in the region that I am aware of, however it is one of, if not the biggest opal mine in the world. Spanning thousands of hectares, the operation on the claim is huge.
Diamantina National Park
Winton Opals are easily distinguishable in compared to Boulder Opals from the mines in southern Queensland. They are well known for higher brightness and more full faced colours. The boulder opals found in Diamantina are much like any other mines; discoveries of Boulder, nuts, matrix, fairy opal and sandstone crystal boulder opal have all been made. Some of the best Boulder Opals ever discovered have been made in Diamantina. Boulder Opals are formed in the same way as any other opal has been formed in Australia; by silica filling cracks in the earth; being formed over thousands of years. Please read and watch our video on how opals are formed.
Diamantina is the most beautiful outback area that I have had the pleasure of visiting in Australia. It is not like the outback area around Winton at all. The country seems to change dramatically as you head out west of Winton. The serenity of the outback here is beyond the beauty of Uluru and parts of the Northern Territory that I visited in my youth. It is very hard to describe beauty of a place such as this without experiencing it. It is a very far and distant World to what most people on Earth are used too; the only sounds that you hear out there are the weather and the wildlife. Some wildlife that I saw were giant wedged tailed eagles, emus, kangaroos and wild brumbies (horses). There are also goannas (large Australian lizards), snakes, wild pigs and goats also in the area. Also a lot of Galahs (a pink native bird to Australia) can be seen around sunset. The area gets some stunning electrical storms come thru at night; and also changes a lot depending on the season. Most people leave the area in the later summer months (January, February and even March), as the heat becomes extreme and the area is prone to flooding if substantial rain comes thru. In the springtime the area grows a lot of wild flowers. The best time of year to visit is during the Winter when it is not too hot. This time of year is also when the most boulder mining is done; miners are often very focused on working long days in the winter when the conditions are not too extreme and they can get the most work done. If you get a chance to visit this part of Australia; I recommend to go in the Winter months.
Galah; a local wild bird to Diamantina