The town is small, but ripe with opals.
The area around Coober Pedy, Australia, was first explored as a mining operation in 1858 but there wasn’t a real town there until 1916. The main material mined in Coober Pedy is opal, and it has the highest known concentration of natural opals in the world. The area has also has significant deposits of gold, copper, and oil. But, with scorching summer temperatures of 95˚F outdoors in the shade (of which there is very little) and a plethora of mining shafts dug into the ground, 60% of the people who live in this small southern Australian town live in underground homes made from the spent mining shafts. More than a few homeowners have found even more opals as they made renovations in their underground spaces.
This is a remote, rocky area with few trees and almost no water. As a consequence Coober Pedy has some of the highest water costs in the entire country. But, they have made up for this by being completely off the power grid.
In the past many in the town of less than 2,000 people got their power from diesel generators, but now much of the power comes from wind power and from solar panels as the area has no shortage of sun. As solar panel site operator, Daniel O’Connor, puts it, “The worst solar panel here is better than the best solar panel and location in a lot of Europe.” Around 70% of the town’s energy now comes from renewable resources.
Despite the lack of trees, water, or national energy support, many residents who live in the opal town say they wouldn’t want live anywhere else and that living undergournd is ideal since you never have to worry about being too hot or too cold.
They also say that life in such a remote area is extremely peaceful, unlike the “rat race” of people who live in cities. This is one of the places you can easily see the Milky Way and the stars at night. Just imagine seeing that kind of thing on a regular basis.