It is a hot day in the desolated Simpson Desert. A man walks through the tunnels of his underground house with a torch in his hand. He lives twenty-five meters under the red soil, where he has been finding Opal for over twenty years. It was an old mine that he transformed into a roof over his head: a home that promise to have plenty of Opal in the walls. “I got my own bank if I want to get a shovel out”. Says Martin Faggetter, an English miner.
Coober Pedy, which derives from the aboriginal name Kupa-Piti or, white man hole, is a town located in the middle of the Australian outback and is isolated 850 kilometers out of the nearest big city. Coober Pedy inhabits a subterranean culture, in which the majority of the population goes after the great wealth of Opal. This is an unconventional town where most of social and personal life takes place under the vast and lonely land itself.
Since 1915 Coober Pedy has been mined for its Opal, a valuable gemstone worth millions. With more than seventy Opal fields, Coober Pedy is the largest Opal mining area in the world. Among a population of 1695 habitants, Coober Pedy offers a home to forty-five different nationalities of immigrants, ex-prisoners, and veterans of the World War who have decided to escape their past lives and take refuge in underground houses called dugouts. Each year, mining work has been decreasing on all fronts. There are less miners working on the fields and young people don’t want to commit to it because of the eminent danger and its unstable source of income.