The Opal Capital of the World
Coober Pedy and its surrounds is often described as being moon-like, with its landscape dotted with shafts and mullock heaps from opal mining activities. The township offers all the facilities expected in a large country town as well as numerous opal shops. As many of the buildings are partially or completely underground, a map or guide is recommended to help you find your way around.
The District Council of Coober Pedy estimates the population to be around 2,500. Approximately 60% of the people are of European heritage, having migrated from southern and eastern Europe after the Second World War. In all, there are more than 45 nationalities represented creating a very ethnically diverse community.
Industry and Income
Coober Pedy is a major regional service centre for Outback South Australia, with essential services including medical, health, welfare, law and order, education and leisure. The four main industries are opal mining, tourism, primary production and support services. Together with nearby Andamooka and Mintabie, Coober Pedy produces 85% of the world’s opal supply.
The Coober Pedy Hospital
Coober Pedy Hospital & Health Services. Part of Country Health SA Local Health Network. Our hospital is a 19 bed facility with 14 acute beds, 4 high level residential aged care beds and 1 palliative care bed and supports a 24/7 Accident & Emergency Department. Community Health provides Community Health Nurses, Allied Health support and Community Aged Care services to the community and surrounding areas. Our staff work in close partnership with community health services and Aboriginal health providers to ensure that optimum care is delivered to all areas of the community.
The region’s low rainfall along with no permanent natural water source prompted the 1922 Government to construct an underground water tank to hold 500,000 gallons (approx. 2 million litres). This supply remained unreliable so the State Government in 1967 developed a solar desalination plant to produce fresh water from salty water pumped from 100m below the surface. However, this did not produce enough water and was often damaged by high winds.
Since 1985, a modern water desalination plant using a reverse osmosis process has been operated by the Coober Pedy District Council. Raw water is pumped from 60m deep artesian bores located 23 km north east of Coober Pedy, via a 200mm pipeline alongside the Oodnadatta Road to the town water tanks. Bore water pumps operate automatically via radio signals transmitted from the town Treatment Plant. The water quality is now excellent.
For travellers, a coin operated water dispensers are available on Hutchison Street.
Coober Pedy Area School
Pre-school to Year 12.
Coober Pedy Area School is offering a quality education for preschool to year 12 students. It incorporates a child parent centre, innovative programs, community connections, and modern facilities. A range of pathways are available, including tertiary study, school to work, VET and apprenticeships. Our students represent 49 different cultures, with one-third of the enrolment being made up of Aboriginal students.
We are an accelerated literacy school and use a method of teaching that helps students to read and write complex texts.
by Irene Spillmann
Underground Living In “Dugouts”
It is believed that the soldiers who returned from the trenches of France during the First World War introduced the idea of living underground in homes commonly known as “dugouts”.
The miners quickly discovered the advantages of living underground to escape the heat of the summer and winter’s cool desert nights. No matter how harsh the climate, the underground rooms maintain a comfortable, even temperature ranging from 19ºC to 25ºC day and night throughout the year.
It is estimated that about 50% of the population live underground now. Most dugout homes are excavated into hillsides rather than dug from shafts.
The soil in the Coober Pedy hillside is stable enough to allow huge ceiling spans in rooms and it is not unusual for a mining family to buy an adjoining property and tunnel to link two dwellings, or even three or four. Some mansion style homes spread up to 450 square metres underground.
There is a large variety of native wildlife found around the Coober Pedy area such as kangaroos, wallabies, emus, sand goannas, bearded dragons, geckos, perentie lizards and a few species of snakes. Dingoes are found outside the dog fence. There are numerous desert varieties of bird life such as eagles, bustards or bush turkeys, budgerigars, galahs, parrots and finches to name a few. Some pelicans and black swans can be found on nearby lakes after rain.