Coober Pedy is an opal mining town located in the harsh Outback of South Australia, some 850 kilometres north of Adelaide and 680 kilometres south of Alice Springs. Coober Pedy is recognised as the largest producer of opal in the world with an estimated 70% of the world's precious opal being mined in the opal fields of the area.
The Coober Pedy Precious Stones Field, from which the opal is mined, covers an area of 4,954 square kilometres of which it is estimated that approximately 10% of the total area has been worked.
Although opal had been discovered elsewhere in Australia around the late 1800's and early 1900's, it was first discovered in this area by Willie Hutchinson, aged 15 years, in February 1915.
Following this discovery settlement began and subsequently developed into the modern town of Coober Pedy. After World War 1, returning soldiers started to drift here and introduced the unusual and unique method of living underground in "dugouts", as many had done in the trenches of France.
Whilst living conditions were harsh with water and provisions being carted great distances, today the town water supply comes from an underground source 24 kilometres north of town. The water is pumped through an underground pipeline to the water works where it is treated by reverse osmosis. The quality is excellent and people should hold no fears about drinking it.
Today with a population of approximately 3,500, Coober Pedy has one of the most multicultural communities in Australia with an estimated 45 nationalities.
The Stuart Highway was completed in 1987 and now allows a comfortable yet lengthy drive through Central Australia. Coober Pedy is serviced daily by coach services and 6 days a week with Regional Express Airlines. Tourism and mining are the driving economic forces in the town.
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