Inhabitants of the underworld

About three quarters of the world’s opal is mined near Coober Pedy in southern Australia. But there’s something quite different going on beneath the surface, too.

Last Resort: Inhabitants of the underworld
© Steve Waters/gettyimages

Surrounded by 70 minefields stretching across roughly 5000 square kilometers of land in the South Australian outback, Coober Pedy – the “opal capital of the world” – is pitted with deep holes in the dusty ground beside piles of excavated sand and gravel atop deep mine shafts. Some 1800 people live here too, many of them underground to escape the extreme heat. Private living quarters as well as hotels, restaurants, shops and churches have been built in the so-called dugouts, which have become a tourist attraction, too.