At a time when government is promoting regional development they are
conversely preparing to put at risk millions and millions of dollars of
government investment in the second largest town in the western division.
The current policy of government to reduce the number of opal miners seems at odds to the large amount of relatively recent investment in Lightning Ridge, particularly in education and health.
Lightning Ridge has been steadily growing at a time when many other towns in regional NSW were shrinking. Why? Because of opal and the people that are part of the local opal industry and tourist industry. Reducing the number of miners is bound to have an adverse effect on population numbers.
The LRMA continue to try and convince government that large numbers of opal miners are essential for finding and mining an economic deposit of opal. Opal is such an elusive gem that without many miners putting large amounts of time, money and energy into discovering it, there will be an insufficient supply to satisfy local and international markets. In addition the more people that discover opal the better off the whole community is rather than attempting to concentrate the wealth with a few. This is already evidenced by the amount of private investment in the community and the facilities that have grown over time mostly paid for by the community.
The government have made it clear they want fewer miners in Opal Prospecting Area 4 and continue to push for one hectare claims as well as making it difficult for the average miner to comply with environmental conditions. Security bonds recently increased and this has already had some impact with mineral claims numbers reduced by around seven hundred over the past five months.
The irony is that many of the schemes set up, such as compensation for graziers, the road fund for miners and the soon to be introduced
rehabilitation levy for the environment will be severely affected should
mineral claim numbers drop too low. This will no doubt lead to an increase in costs thus encouraging even more miners to leave the industry.
We are hopeful that the opal mining industry's views will prevail and the
LRMA will continue their push to ensure the rules and conditions remain
practical, titles remain over the counter and that all miners have an
opportunity to find opal.
Lightning Ridge Miners' Association Ltd
PO Box 177
Lightning Ridge NSW 2834
Ph: (02) 6829 0427; Fax: (02) 6829 0830
Mob: 0427 920 474
26 March 2006 05:52pm