More and more tourists are flocking to the new tourist attraction in Lightning Ridge where you can go 11.2 metres underground to explore hand carved images sculptured out of the sandstone walls and pillars of an old opal mine.  Then tour an old opal mine that was started over 100 years ago.

Ron Canlin – The Artist

Ron served with Royal Marines S.B.S. – 5 years on oil rigs as a diver. Ron is married with one daughter and 3 granddaughters .

Ron and his wife Glennis came to Australia in 1980, making their home in Southport Queensland. Having always been interested in “fossicking” (digging up Victorian rubbish tips in the UK), he decided to visit Lightning Ridge at Christmas 1980 was totally captivated in the lifestyle and possibility of making a fortune in the black opal – so went back to Southport’ sold the house and business, and moved here permanently in April 1982.

Setting up a shed on a claim Ron began mining in earnest have a bit of luck here and there, but no fortune! He gained a nickname “have hoist will travel” as he changed his mining claims as often as he changed his mind. Ron relinquished The Black hand mine at least twice – but finally registered it a third time and was determined to work it until the colour came.

The purchase of The Flash Newspaper put an end to fulltime mining for a number of years as he and Glennis were kept very busy. In 1996 they sold the paper and retired from the workforce.

Ron went back to mining with enthusiasm and having the creative abilities he is well known for decided to build himself a “Walk Down Mine”. Noting the beautiful sandstone, he started caving animals in the walls and pillars, the idea and skills grew and grew, as did the interest of friends in the Ridge and visitors from overseas that is when Ron thought that tourists might also find the mine of interest, which has proved to be the case.

There is no end to Ron’s artistic abilities as our visitors can see for themselves.

Trevor & Cheryl Hudson – Tour Guide & Retail Store Manager

Chambers of the Black Hand is run by Trevor and Cheryl Hudson. Local miners themselves for some 25 years, they have endured the hardship and exhilaration that comes with chasing the ever elusive black opal.

Trevor and Cheryl tell their own story:

We came to Lightning Ridge approx 25 years ago for a week end and we are still here. This story almost every new chum (meaning not born here) will tell you.

We arrived at the beginning of the “Sheepyard Rush”, wasted 12 months mining for pretty potch until we realised we need to have actual colour to make any money. We have had a few wins and many losses over the years.

Trevor discovered a penchant for prospecting and purchased our first drill a T3 percussion drill with an enormous thirst for diesel. It was a 29 tonne beast and lived out its last few years in the Coocoran field as a plant hanger. Eventually we sold it for scrap metal and purchased another drill (The Tonker Toy) – a mismatch of a serious professional machine and a kiddies’ toy – we had gone from one extreme to the other.

We could find with this drill patches of opal in short periods of time and low cost, but did not have the grunt to complete all information that we required to value our ground so this meant we relied on others to finish. Needless to say, wrong move.

Trevor then decided to develop a drill that would give him all the information we needed to be able to find out how to compete. Trevor discovered many fields at The Cocoran – Norway’s2, Cheryl’s Rush, Dead Bird and Natalee’s Dream. All of these were highly successful fields.

The apprenticeship served in the opal fields took 20 years, before any geology and understanding could be formulated. There are no books that are accurate to use as a guide for prospecting opal. One day we hope that Trevor will write one.