Sunday 23 October 2016

Queensland miner killed in trench collapse.

A sixty-two-year-old miner has been found dead following a the collapse of an exploration trench at a mine in Opalton, Queensland, on Saturday 22 October 2016. Sid Cuddy was reported missing after a friend visited the site where he was operating at about 4.00 pm local time. The location is described as being extremely remote, being about 150 km southwest of Winton and about 300 km west of Longreach, and it took police and firefighters six hours to reach the site, and a further three hours to clear the trench and find Mr Cuddy's body.

Sid Cuddy (62), who died in a collapse at an exploration trench at an opal mine in Opalton, Queensland, on 22 October 2016. The Courier Mail.

Opal is an amorphous form of silica containing as much as 21% water, It is made up of tiny spheroids of crystalline silica some 150 to 300 nm in diameter, with random alignments to one another. Light passing through these crystaloids is refracted as by a prism, leading to the 'opalescent' sheen which gives the mineral its value. Opal is formed by water percolating through silica rocks, where it desolves some of the mineral forming a silica-rich solution. This can accumulate in any cracks or gaps in the rock, where if it reaches a high enough concentration it can precipitate out as opal.

Opal beds in Queensland are found largely in exposures of the Cretaceous Winton Formation, an iron rich sandstone laid down in a shallow inland sea (the Etomanga Sea) that covered parts of Queensland and central Australia during the Early Cretaceous. which extends from Hungerford on the New South Wakes border northwest to the area around Kynuna, a distance of over 1000 kilometres. The opal here is typically found in cracks in ironstone concretions (themselves formed by precipitation from water that has accumulated iron as it peculated through the feruginous sandstone), and is commonly called 'boulder opal'.

These fields have been worked since the 1870s, with the bulk of the mining done by small, artisanal miners who sink shallow trenches into the sandstone looking for opal-bearing boulders. The Opalton deposits were among the first opal fields discovered in Australia, and as well as still supporting a mining industry, are now a thriving tourist attraction.

Mr Cuddy is described as having been a highly experienced miner, always willing to help other less experienced prospectors. The cause of the collapse that killed him is as yet unknown.

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