New "Illegal Opal Fossicking" Signs. Lightning Ridge, N.S.W.

Syndyne

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Hi all,

Thought I'd post this up here for those that possibly are or, aren't aware of the changes now in place via the new signage in regards to fossicking and specking on the Opal fields here at Lightning Ridge. I'm told these changes were made due to the high influx of tourists we are now seeing in town. Those of us that own and operate mineral claims here are under an increased and inherent risk of an accident occurring as a result of people wandering about the fields and on registered claims. We as Opal Miners can only mitigate so much with signage, fencing etc. (as most well versed members here already know) before it's out of hand, however the Mines Department don't see it this way and will easily hand us, ie; the Mine Operator or Mine Manager a substantial fine and potential blacklisting from mining if an incident or accident, no matter how small, should happen on a registered claim. I should also note that cameras are now being used on the fields which is news to me, but not surprising given what I've seen taking place here on the fields over the last few years.

Lightning Ridge Fossicking Sign.jpg
Pictured is some of the new signage that you're greeted with upon turning onto the road into the town off of the Castlereagh Highway.

It's all a bit sad that it came to this point really.
Kindest regards,
Shauno.

MODS: Feel free to move or copy this thread into the appropriate sections if required.
 
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WalnLiz

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Hi all,

Thought I'd post this up here for those that possibly are or, aren't aware of the changes now in place via the new signage in regards to fossicking and specking on the Opal fields here at Lightning Ridge. I'm told these changes were made due to the high influx of tourists we are now seeing in town. Those of us that own and operate mineral claims here are under an increased and inherent risk of an accident occurring as a result of people wandering about the fields and on registered claims. We as Opal Miners can only mitigate so much with signage, fencing etc. (as most well versed members here already know) before it's out of hand, however the Mines Department don't see it this way and will easily hand us, ie; the Mine Operator or Mine Manager a substantial fine and potential blacklisting from mining if an incident or accident, no matter how small, should happen on a registered claim. I should also note that cameras are now being used on the fields which is news to me, but not surprising given what I've seen taking place here on the fields over the last few years.

View attachment 3679
Pictured is some of the new signage that you're greeted with upon turning onto the road into the town off of the Castlereagh Highway.

It's all a bit sad that it came to this point really.
Kindest regards,
Shauno.

MODS: Feel free to move or copy this thread into the appropriate sections if required.

My two bobs worth....
Pity it has come to this, as the town is the one to be the big loser in the long run. Places like the Ridge rely on tourism for their survival. Give it another 5 years for the tourists to abandon the town, and they will, mark my words.

For the past 3 years we have gone to Tibooburra chasing gold in the winter and on the way home have spent a week noodling each time at White Cliffs opal field. The town is always bustling with tourists who buy opals from the miners, fuel and food from the shop, pay for accommodation in the caravan park, and noodle on the thousands of heaps available to them. The town actually encourages tourists and its the noodling that brings them there.

My advice if you want to have a great time on an opal field is boycott the Ridge and give White Cliffs a go. You will be welcomed and you will have a memorable stay. The Ridge has seen its last dollar from me. Cheers Wal.
 
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WalnLiz

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Well said Wal, vote with your feet

How hard would it be for them to give limited access to the many mine dumping areas which don't have shafts so they can scratch around for a few opal chips after the rains. Would you go to a town with a river to "fish" if there wasn't any fish in the river 😢.
 
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Boycott the Ridge! Boycott the Ridge! Boycott the Ridge! ( chant like like a union delegate) 🤣🤣🤣🤣
 
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I expect two of the signs are primarily a legal liability issue to warn visitors of the danger (if they don't they are legally considered negligent, and I have seen such signs on all opal fields regardless of State). This one greets you at White Cliffs.

1660608907075.png

Also, the Mines Dept have no choice but to prosecute for infringements relating to OH&S on an operating claim, which is not what these signs refer to anyway (it does not matter if it is a coal mine or gold mine or an opal mine) - but that is not what is being referred to. From memory at Coober Pedy it is strictly illegal to even enter an old mining area, with signs everywhere for decades (there is a designated area where you can prospect - a small field called the "Jewellers Shop"). It helps noone if there is a tourist fatality. Access would only be further restricted. Local White Cliffs miners are NOT impressed by tourists wandering around open shafts either (I have spent time on all three fields and have known the heads of the local miners' associations).

"How hard would it be for them to give limited access to the many mine dumping areas which don't have shafts so they can scratch around for a few opal chips after the rains" - in theory that seems reasonable but 99% of dumps are adjacent to shafts, whether filled or open. Are you going to map out where the open holes are for them? Look at the density....Are you sure that such designatged areas do not exist? White Cliffs is a tiny field by comparison and all of it is declared an opal reserve (so legal to fossick there - although that only negates any crown land restriction. The third sign in your photo actually specifically refers to "illegal" fossicking, as applies everywhere in NSW (crown land, and private land and claims without owners permission, or using illegal types of equipment). Have you read the barcode on your phone that is on the sign to see if it gives additional details? Have you asked at the Tourist info centre? Lastly, the signs are on a fence line - are you sure that the one sign that you are presumably objecting to does not specifically refer to the fenced area? There is a lot of private land at Lightning Ridge - I have simply asked owners permission and never been refused once. Best to check (perhaps before calling a boycott and going to White Cliffs where the same state laws apply to illegal fossicking except within the small opal reserve which simply lacks any crown land restriction).

1660606486782.png
 
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There is an opal reserve at Lightning Ridge and activities within it iare controlled by a board that ncludes people from council (including the Mayor), tourism, the info centre, the Lightning Ridge MIners Association etc.

1660610039401.png
 
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Diginit

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The TV shows bring uneducated people with zero bush skills, it's a accident waiting to happen.
100% along with many others that drift into town towing their mobile homes thinking they can park up where ever they want (as long as it's free) and do as they wish with little regard or respect for local land owners. In fact it is so bad that police in my area even request locals to make allowances and cut them some slack due to their ignorance of local knowledge. Give way sign before a causeway ? Doesn't apply if your towing a van apparently o_O As always some make it hard for others sadly.
 
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mbasko

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There is an opal reserve at Lightning Ridge and activities within it iare controlled by a board that ncludes people from council (including the Mayor), tourism, the info centre, the Lightning Ridge MIners Association etc.

View attachment 3691
It appears on the surface to be set up with the miners (claim owners) interests at the forefront. There are reportedly some ~3000 claims on the reserve & no apparent area/s set aside for fossicking.
Maybe if enough people contact the LRAOR https://lror.org/contact/
some thought may be given to "safe" fossicking areas or a general permission type permit for specific areas?
 

mbasko

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My two bobs worth....
Pity it has come to this, as the town is the one to be the big the loser in the long run. Places like the Ridge rely on tourism for their survival. Give it another 5 years for the tourists to abandon the town, and they will, mark my words.

For the past 3 years we have gone to Tibooburra chasing gold in the winter and on the way home have spent a week noodling each time at White Cliffs opal field. The town is always bustling with tourists who buy opals from the miners, fuel and food from the shop, pay for accommodation in the caravan park, and noodle on the thousands of heaps available to them. The town actually encourages tourists and its the noodling that brings them there.

My advice if you want to have a great time on an opal field is boycott the Ridge and give White Cliffs a go. You will be welcomed and you will have a memorable stay. The Ridge has seen its last dollar from me. Cheers Wal.
The signs are popping up all around the state Wal, not just Lightning Ridge. There is similar signage seen at Hill End, Torrington etc. The NSW Resource Regulator seems to be placing them at high traffic geotourism spots & other areas where complaints/issues have surfaced.
Don't be surprised with an influx of tourists to White Cliffs if these signs don't pop up there too.
They are relatively new signs but are also only for awareness of rules/laws already in place. You've never been able to legally wander onto somebody else's claim/lease & have needed to follow other various fossicking rules. Nothing has changed there.
The big issue is many tourists & other weekend fossickers are unaware of the rules. There are also some who are but don't care.
I wouldn't blame Lightning Ridge or their tourism body entirely. There definitely needs to be some investigation on their part though of fossicking areas or some type of general permission permit system for fossicking tourists.
 

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I expect two of the signs are primarily a legal liability issue to warn visitors of the danger (if they don't they are legally considered negligent, and I have seen such signs on all opal fields regardless of State). This one greets you at White Cliffs.

View attachment 3689

Also, the Mines Dept have no choice but to prosecute for infringements relating to OH&S on an operating claim, which is not what these signs refer to anyway (it does not matter if it is a coal mine or gold mine or an opal mine) - but that is not what is being referred to. From memory at Coober Pedy it is strictly illegal to even enter an old mining area, with signs everywhere for decades (there is a designated area where you can prospect - a small field called the "Jewellers Shop"). It helps noone if there is a tourist fatality. Access would only be further restricted. Local White Cliffs miners are NOT impressed by tourists wandering around open shafts either (I have spent time on all three fields and have known the heads of the local miners' associations).

"How hard would it be for them to give limited access to the many mine dumping areas which don't have shafts so they can scratch around for a few opal chips after the rains" - in theory that seems reasonable but 99% of dumps are adjacent to shafts, whether filled or open. Are you going to map out where the open holes are for them? Look at the density....Are you sure that such designatged areas do not exist? White Cliffs is a tiny field by comparison and all of it is declared an opal reserve (so legal to fossick there - although that only negates any crown land restriction. The third sign in your photo actually specifically refers to "illegal" fossicking, as applies everywhere in NSW (crown land, and private land and claims without owners permission, or using illegal types of equipment). Have you read the barcode on your phone that is on the sign to see if it gives additional details? Have you asked at the Tourist info centre? Lastly, the signs are on a fence line - are you sure that the one sign that you are presumably objecting to does not specifically refer to the fenced area? There is a lot of private land at Lightning Ridge - I have simply asked owners permission and never been refused once. Best to check (perhaps before calling a boycott and going to White Cliffs where the same state laws apply to illegal fossicking except within the small opal reserve which simply lacks any crown land restriction).

View attachment 3688

That sign and several others around the White Cliffs field give warning to fossickers and are not a no fossicking sign of any sort. I personally know quite a few miners at White Cliffs and their attitude towards fossickers is far different to "The Ridge". I had a lease on the Ridge in the late 90's and even then the miners there were not favourable of fossickers. Admittedly there is not many full time miners left at White Cliffs, but the feel of the place is far friendlier than the Ridge, and as such will see me there on many more occasions....Wal
 

WalnLiz

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The signs are popping up all around the state Wal, not just Lightning Ridge. There is similar signage seen at Hill End, Torrington etc. The NSW Resource Regulator seems to be placing them at high traffic geotourism spots & other areas where complaints/issues have surfaced.
Don't be surprised with an influx of tourists to White Cliffs if these signs don't pop up there too.
They are relatively new signs but are also only for awareness of rules/laws already in place. You've never been able to legally wander onto somebody else's claim/lease & have needed to follow other various fossicking rules. Nothing has changed there.
The big issue is many tourists & other weekend fossickers are unaware of the rules. There are also some who are but don't care.
I wouldn't blame Lightning Ridge or their tourism body entirely. There definitely needs to be some investigation on their part though of fossicking areas or some type of general permission permit system for fossicking tourists.

White Cliffs has made an effort to encourage tourists to noodle there, placing strategic toilets and bus turn around areas purposely to encourage tourists throughout the field. Too many areas, be they Opal fields Sapphire fields or Gold fields' are heading down the track of banning access to fossickers and my concern is that sooner or later we'll all be watching Discovery TV to get our fossicking fix.
 
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There are several public noodling areas in Lightning Ridge, and immediately outside the town at Grawin there are 3 public dump sites (each is about the size of a football field).

Important to keep in mind that Lightning Ridge is still an active mining field, not just a tourist site, the value of just UNCUT opals each year still exceeding tourism (even though tourism may be its future). To put it in perspective, Lightning Ridge probably produces most of the value of NSW opals (probably tens of millions of dollars at least from Lightning Ridge e.g. in 2017 it is estimated that REPORTED uncut opal production of Australia was $80 million). The black opals of Lightning Ridge (and Mintabie and a small field at Coober Pedy) is far greater than the paler opals of White Cliffs (although I like White Cliffs and its people).

Most of the tourist income at Lightning Ridge probably involves people content to prospect the couple of dumps built just for that purpose within town, or to buy from dealers and tourist shops, although there are several other dumps in addition to Grawin (which is better for serious noodlers). The opal fossils and "pineapples" at White Cliffs fetch a good price, but won't be found noodling.

White Cliffs opal field is only about 4 sq km in total area. - just the town opal field (not including Coocoran, New Angledool, Grawin- Carters Rush etc) at Lightning Ridge is 65 sq km. Those outlying fields are more than double that again in area.
 
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mbasko

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White Cliffs has made an effort to encourage tourists to noodle there, placing strategic toilets and bus turn around areas purposely to encourage tourists throughout the field. Too many areas, be they Opal fields Sapphire fields or Gold fields' are heading down the track of banning access to fossickers and my concern is that sooner or later we'll all be watching Discovery TY to get our fossicking fix.
Definitely Wal!
And the department that should be helping to facilitate fossicking/fossicking areas in the state is also the department that is putting up the barriers (or insisting other dept's like Crown Lands do) in many cases.
 

WalnLiz

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There are several public noodling areas in Lightning Ridge, and immediately outside the town at Grawin there are 3 public dump sites (each is about the size of a football field).

Important to keep in mind that Lightning Ridge is still an active mining field, not just a tourist site, the value of just UNCUT opals each year still exceeding tourism (even though that may be its future). To put it in perspective, Lightning Ridge probably produces about half the value of NSW opals (probably tens of millions of dollars at least from Lightning Ridge e.g. in 2017 it is estimated that REPORTED uncut opal production of Australia was $80 million).

Most of the tourist income probably involves people content to prospect the couple of dumps built just for that purpose within town, or to buy from dealers and tourist shops, although there are several other dumps in addition to Grawin (which is better for serious noodlers).

My concern is the 'Intent" of council to minimise fossicking in the area. Start with signs at the Ridge, then expand to the Sheep yards and Grawin, and soon enough that's the end of noodling on that field. The noodling spot in front of the tourist centre is nothing short of a joke.
 

WalnLiz

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Definitely Wal!
And the department that should be helping to facilitate fossicking/fossicking areas in the state is also the department that is putting up the barriers (or insisting other dept's like Crown Lands do) in many cases.

As fossickers, if we idly stand by and accept the "Intent" of these Govt Departments to minimise our hobby, then the hobby will be short lived and that's not what i want for my kids and grandkids down the track.. I believe in supporting councils that support us, and only then can change for the better be accomplished.
 

mbasko

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There are several public noodling areas in Lightning Ridge, and immediately outside the town at Grawin there are 3 public dump sites (each is about the size of a football field).

Important to keep in mind that Lightning Ridge is still an active mining field, not just a tourist site, the value of just UNCUT opals each year still exceeding tourism (even though that may be its future). To put it in perspective, Lightning Ridge probably produces mist of the value of NSW opals (probably tens of millions of dollars at least from Lightning Ridge e.g. in 2017 it is estimated that REPORTED uncut opal production of Australia was $80 million). The black opals of Lightning Ridge (and Mintabie and a small field at Coober Pedy) is far greater than the opals of White Cliffs (although I like White Cliffs and its people).

Most of the tourist income at Lightning Ridge probably involves people content to prospect the couple of dumps built just for that purpose within town, or to buy from dealers and tourist shops, although there are several other dumps in addition to Grawin (which is better for serious noodlers). The opal fossils and "pineapples" at White Cliffs fetch a good price, but won't be found noodling.
The only public area now at Grawin is reportedly a small dump near the pub.
The "public" dumps I believe are owned by the miners (or managed under trust for the miners) & are off limits.
The Ridge has the one at the tourist centre & at least one at a tourist mine (can noodle after paying).
Edit: oh & the one at the Opal caravan park if you're staying there.
Other than that unless you know somebody there isn't much for the general tourist there.
 
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WalnLiz

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The only public area now at Grawin is reportedly a small dump near the pub.
The "public" dumps I believe are owned by the miners (or under trust for the miners) & are off limits.
The Ridge has the one at the tourist centre & at least one at a tourist mine (can noodle after paying). Other than that unless you know somebody there isn't much for the general tourist there.
That's exactly right mbasko. Only place you can noodle is if you know a miner. Fortunately I know a couple of the miners at the Sheep Yards and can get access...but that doesn't help the average fossicker.
 

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