Underground city made from old opal mines has 3,500 residents


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/02/07/underground-city-made-from-old.html


Not much noise down there, I’d bet.


Not necessarily depleted. A long time ago (pre internet) I read a National Geographic article about the town, which specifically mentioned that the cost of excavating a new underground home in Coober Pedy could be more than offset by the value of opals found while digging.


Around KC we have many limestone mines/caves and many of them have been turned into storage areas. There is even a paintball park in one of them!

They are a cooler 65 degrees or so, but still fairly pleasant.

In Hutchinson KS there are old salt mines converted to storage and houses tons of historical documents and old films, due to the super dry and cool stable conditions.


I read the same article years ago and found it fascinating. I also remember reading a YA novel that took place there…


Am I the only one that would watch an entire series devoted to Doug creating a new underground home? That would be cool.


Wonder if they need an IT person? Wouldn’t mind living underground and I would be safe from the upcoming war that Drumpf/TGOP will bring about.


They could do the same in Detroit.


I have a friend who did a few years there. At the time there were IT techs around, but mostly employed by mining companies and doing extra work on the side. I’m guessing you could drum up some business.

And while I’m here, a tidbit from the wikipedia page that could really use expanding:

The local golf course – mostly played at night with glowing balls, to avoid daytime temperatures – is completely free of grass, and golfers take a small piece of “turf” around to use for teeing off.


This one wasn’t specifically set there, but it’s the first thing I thought of:


Salt from back when Detroit was quaint.


Whenever people say we need to build up more, I think, have you considered all of the possibilities that down has to offer.


Another one is the game Fallen London. The premise is “dark powers!!!” dragged London underground and it is there today. You play by coming to the city and doing various quests to get money and influence. I liked it, but never could find anyone to do some of the more complex missions with. I gave up on it and gave them some feedback on that.


TANSTAAFL. There’s no magical source of coolness down there, just a very large rock heat sink of average temperature. If they put a large heat-producing city underground, someone should do the math to see how fast heat can be dumped into the rock before things start warming up, and the people broil. Check the ventilation too.


Coober Pedy actually means “white person in a hole” in the local aboriginal language.


Coober Pedy is what it is because, although there’s opal all over the place, it isn’t in one big vein. So, instead of having a single big mining company, you get a thousand independent nutters.

The town itself is built right in the middle of the opal patch. But, they don’t want people tearing up the town, so there’s a “no mining in town limits” rule.

However, if you just happen to stumble across some opal while extending your house, you can keep it. Because of this, Coober Pedy is full of single blokes living in twenty-room underground mansions.


I’ve been there, and you’d be surprised.

There’s a constant “gnrrrrrrr…gnrrrrrrr…” sound at night that you can hear in one of these cave places (we stayed at an underground hotel).

It’s from people running mining machines at night, outside of the town limits, but the noise transmits through the rock. People do a lot of the work at night because of the heat, and also you can UV scan topside for the opals better in the dark if you don’t have an enclosed area to scan in.

That place is awesome. So much of the mining machinery is handmade and brilliant.


I wanted to move there when I was a kid, it still holds a lot of attraction for me. I visited a sales office for an Australian mining consortium one time in Hong Kong - complete with a simulated underground mine inside an ultra-modern skyscraper.

I did manage to mine some opal myself at an above-ground operation in Idaho back in the mid-1980s. They produce some surprisingly high-quality opal there but it’s not as thick as the best stuff out of Coober Pedy and often needs to be backed with another stone, and/or topped with a protective layer of rock crystal to make what they call a doublet or triplet.


I still loathe hot temperatures and would like to live in a subterranean home somewhere - I just wouldn’t want to hang out in that desert in the daytime.


Not being in a central vein isn’t enough to stop a big company from coming in. Not providing enough dollars of opal per ton of excavated spoil to cover the costs of a large scale excavation, is.

I had forgotten the bit about mining not being allowed within city limits. Thanks for that.

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