Opal miners shy away from land releases

(Sourced from http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/07/01/2613356.htm?site=westernpl… on July 3, 2009)

There has been a dramatic drop in the number of people applying for new opal mining land at Lightning Ridge.

Ballots for 12 areas opened last Friday and so far there have only been about 40 applicants for each plot.

This is compared to hundreds of bids per ballot the last time new land was released a few years ago.

Maxine O’Brien from the Lightning Ridge Miners Association says changes to the way the Department of Primary Industries releases opal mining land is one reason for the decline in applications.

“It’s totally deterred them, according to the numbers – the industry has dropped a little bit but the difference in numbers is quite marked,” she said.

“I think most of the miners have realised even if they do win the ballot, their licence won’t be granted for quite some time because of the additional environmental assessments which have to be presented to the department again in a new format.”

A review into the environmental factors must be finished before mining work can start.

Ms O’Brien says that means some miners may have to wait several months to begin prospecting.

“Hopefully the representative body can have a bit more success in trying to get these processes completed before the licences are granted,” she said.

Whether or not this will have an effect on the value of Black Opal is yet to be seen.

Hopefully not though.