Australia has a rich history of mining dating back to when gold was first discovered near Bathurst in New South Wales in 1823. This initial discovery did not produce an abundance of gold, so it wasn’t until the 1850s that saw Australia in the midst of the gold rush and producing 40% of the world’s gold.
There are many gemstones and crystals that are mined in Australia. With so many newly discovered crystals in recent years, it remains to be seen what else our beautiful country is hiding beneath her red dusty earth. Let's explore some of the crystals that have already been unearthed!
Not only is Mookaite Jasper completely unique to Australia, it also beautifully resembles the outback with its vivid colours of red, yellow, cream, brown and burgundy/purple. It is the perfect Australian crystal and was first mined in the mid-1960s.
Mookaite Jasper is mined at Mooka Creek, which is in the Kennedy Ranges of Western Australia. This Jasper is aptly named after the Aboriginal word ‘Mooka” which translates to “running waters” (Mooka Creek has many underground springs).
Interestingly, this area of Western Australia was once part of an inland sea which evaporated long ago and is a contributing factor to forming what we know today as Mookaite Jasper.
Did you know that Australia’s national gemstone is the Opal? Unfortunately, this crystal is often viewed as too ‘touristy’. It does, however, have a lot more going for it than just being used for souvenirs …
One of Australia’s most recognised Opal mining towns is Coober Pedy, which was established around 1916, and is known as the Opal capital of the world. Coober Pedy is very unique due to it being built underground in what are locally known as ‘dugouts’ or caves. You will find houses, hotels, cafes and churches all underground to escape the daytime heat of the desert. The Aboriginal word for Coober Pedy is ‘Kupa Piti’, which apparently translates to ‘white man in a hole’!
Coober Pedy has other reasons to be famous … It was once used as the backdrop for filming parts of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert movies!
You might be wondering how a desert could end up with so much Opal? In a nutshell, about 150 million years ago, Coober Pedy looked very different to the desert landscape we know today, it was completely underneath the ocean. Over time the ocean receded, and the receding water collected silica from sandstone. Eventually the water evaporated and left behind a deposit of silica that over millions of years formed into the crystal Opal.
Opal mines can be found all over Australia. Black Opal crystals can be found at Lightning Ridge in New South Wales. White Opal crystals are usually found in South Australia (Coober Pedy). Whilst in Queensland you will find Boulder Opal crystals.
The Opal has long been associated with Aboriginal Dreamtime stories which are well worth reading. There is one in particular from the Aboriginal tribes in Andamooka, South Australia about their ancestral being coming to earth on a rainbow and stones being turned into the colours of the Opal.
Stichtite in Serpentine (Atlantisite®)
The small town of Dundas, on the West Coast of Tasmania, was busy mining Silver and Lead in the 1890s. In the year 1910 the crystal Stichtite was discovered and was named after Robert Carl Sticht, the manager of the nearby mine (owned by Mount Lyell Mining & Railway company). Sadly, by 1930 the town was almost deserted.
Skipping forward to 1998, the only residents left in the town of Dundas were Mike and Elenor Phelan and they, together with Tom Kapitany, obtained a mining licence over the Stichtite Hill mine.
Stichtite is a very pretty crystal with pink to purple colours. Serpentine is a bright lime green to a dull olive green crystal. Together, these two precious crystals were given the registered trademark name of Atlantisite®, which can only be found at Stichtite Hill.
Amazingly the original mine was dug by hand by the Phelans and they dragged the mined stones down the hill by hand. The crystal Atlantisite® is still being mined at Stichtite Hill today.
It is said that the best Prehnite crystals in the world come from a place in the Northern Territory called Wave Hill, and that Australia has about 90% of the world’s supply.
In the 1960s Prehnite crystals that were found in Australia were exported to Germany, however there wasn’t any more activity until the 1980s when a mining lease was obtained over the Wave Hill area.
The area of Wave Hill, also known as Kalkarindji, played an important part of our Australian history standing up for Aboriginal land rights. Paul Kelly, the Australian singer, wrote the song From Little Things, Big Things Grow which tells the story of Aboriginal stockmen, led by Vincent Lingiari of the Gurindji people, walking off the cattle station at Wave Hill seeking better wages and conditions.
Up until this time the Aboriginal workers’ conditions had been deplorable. They were not paid the minimal wage and they had no running water, toilets, lights, flooring or edible food.
This initial walk off resulted in the Gurindji people being given back their land. On 16 August 1975, at Kalkarindji, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically poured sand into Vincent Lingiari’s hands and handed him deeds to the land.
Many of Australia’s crystal and gemstone lands are now rightfully back in the hands of Indigenous owners.
Continue learning about crystals
If you'd like to find out more about Australian crystals take a look at some of our other blogs where we cover topics such as Where to Find Australian Crystals and Stones or Crystal Healing with Australian Crystals.
Where possible, we prefer to source our crystals from Australian mines and we have put together a collection of crystals that have been mined right here in Australia. Check out our home-grown Aussie crystals in our Australian Crystals and Rocks collection.