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You don’t ask too many questions at the bar in Lightning Ridge. There’s plenty of characters out here and you get the feeling everyone is escaping from something; the confines of the city, personal dramas and probably the law.

Photography by Nick Parkinson
Words by Dave Fraser

Opal mining is the main draw card for this remote town in far western New South Wales near the border of Queensland, and it’s one of the last places in the world where you can stake a claim and become a miner.

There’s a gamblers mentality in mining towns like Lightning Ridge with everyone looking for the rush of the strike. Mining has a romantic appeal to many and the thought of staking your claim, working hard for your own luck and striking it rich is a heady idea.

You’ll here plenty of stories of those who’ve hit jackpot and made good at the bar but it seems it’s the pub and the opal dealers that are the ones who’ve done the best in this town.

With changes to mining licences, Lightning Ridge is part of a fading Australia that will soon be gone.

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