A critical government oversight dating back to 2015 has abruptly rendered 827 opal miners jobless in a renowned opal mining town in Australia without a means of livelihood after government error left their mining licenses invalid.
The state’s Natural Resources Minister, Courtney Houssos, has revealed the outcome of a comprehensive departmental review. The investigation has unearthed a total of 827 miners in the renowned opal mining town of Lightning Ridge, along with 31 miners in White Cliffs, who have been granted invalid mining licenses.
This error went unnoticed for a staggering eight years. The responsible department has now come forward, acknowledging the mistake. It offers a glimmer of hope by suggesting that affected miners may be able to obtain new licenses if they reapply. The community, however, remains deeply concerned about the long-lasting repercussions of this oversight and seeks swift action to rectify the situation.
Houssos disclosed the findings of a comprehensive review, shedding light on the cause of the devastating error that has impacted opal miners in Lightning Ridge, White Cliffs, and the surrounding communities.
Black opal from Lightning Ridge is the 180-carat Aurora Australis.
The review has identified that a multitude of issues stemming from reforms implemented in 2015 to the Mining Act 1992 was responsible for this unfortunate predicament. Minister Houssos, speaking on behalf of the government, expressed deep regret for the disruption experienced by both miners and landholders. “On behalf of the government, I apologise for this disruption to miners and landholders,” Houssos said in a media statement. “We know how important the opal industry is to Lightning Ridge, White Cliffs and surrounding communities.”
Lightning Ridge Miners’ Association president, Sebastian Deisenberger, has raised concerns about the increasing burden of rules, bureaucracy, and government fees over his 30 years in the mining industry. According to Deisenberger, the once-thriving sense of adventure has diminished, making it extremely challenging and costly for newcomers to enter the field. He lamented that the changes have eroded the opportunities previously available to the less affluent, who had a fair chance to succeed in Lightning Ridge.
In response to these issues, Minister Houssos has announced the government’s intention to conduct an independent review of the current regulations governing opal mining. The review will take into account the recommendations of the 2011 Wilcox Report, which addresses land disputes between farmers and miners, seeking to address the pressing concerns within the industry.