Weasel’s Claim

A particular obnoxious miner from Mintabie Opal fields was always after our claims. Andrew went to considerable lengths in attempts to get ground near us. We had three claims, in a prime part of the opal fields, near the Mintabie township water tank located on the escarpment within the opal fields proper

His first attempt was to take me to the warden’s court in an attempt to gain my claim on the grounds of not fulfilling the labor conditions. Case dismissed! His second attempt was just as obnoxious. In between two of our claims was a small strip of ‘no man’s land’. This was a narrow strip about fifteen feet in width on one end, narrowing to about ten feet at the other end. Although not pegged it was obvious to all, that this was regarded as part of our partnership’s claims.

The Christmas break after his failed legal attempt on my claim, he stooped to a new level of weaselry. Whilst we were away he pegged this tiny strip of land. It was just wide enough to reverse his blower (a giant vacuum cleaner type machine attached to the back of a truck that is used to remove the dirt from underground via a series of steel pipes). Although this was totally legal it was not the accepted thing amongst Mintabie opal miners.

He knew that the level we worked was 42 feet. He contracted for a hole to put down to forty five feet. Normally, when mining at Mintabie, the shaft is drilled quite a bit deeper than the level to make it easier to open up (an article on, ‘opening a hole’ in the future).

Anyway, Weasel thoroughly worked this narrow strip. By the time we came back to start the work for the year he had finished, pulled his pegs, and moved on. We heard he did not find a single piece of opal so had wasted his time and money on the endeavor.

Later that year we decided this hole was conveniently placed so would set up on it and do some work from there. We re-pegged one of our claims to legalize the hole and moved the winch. Deciding to start with the lower level we started to sink the shaft down another ten feet. To sink down, holes were drilled with the auger to place the explosive charges in.

When we reached the lower level, the first hole drilled, cut through a seam of opal. With extreme care the ground was removed until directly on top of the opal. The actual opal was dug out with a hand pick and placed in a bucket. The pocket was a small pocket worth a few thousand dollars.

The most satisfying aspect was that Weasel had missed it. If he had done the normal procedure instead of trying to save a few dollars by sinking a shallower shaft he would have at least found this opal. I have not seen Weasel for many years, so perhaps if he stumbles across this article he will realize that karma had bit him on the bum.

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