Last week one of my Andamooka mining friends called me and said that one of his countrymen, 76 years old, was packing up to go back to Europe. He was prepared to quit all of his current stock at a bargain price.

I spoke to the old guy because he was supposed to be a bit of an old fox, and it seemed that it would be worth going to Andamooka to pick up all of his matrix at least.

After much haggling and going back to our hotel for the night, seeing him again in the morning and not being able to arrive at a price, later on leaving the town my friend urged me to go in once again because he said he saw in his eye he really did want to sell, but just couldn’t accept the price that I was offering.

To cut a long story short after coffees, pictures of the 76 year old’s girlfriend in Europe, vivid descriptions of what may be taking place when he arrives home, we finally arrived at a deal. Australian Opal Mines secured 475 ounces of matrix. Now this is a huge quantity to have in stock.

I also got him to throw in as part of the deal 170 specimens, actually ‘painted ladies’ from Andamooka.

It was lucky I was in my pickup truck because it filled a lot of the back of the pickup truck.

The logic behind securing such large stock is that there are only fifteen genuine mining gangs in Andamooka now, and there is only one bulldozer.

The bulldozer was sitting idle the day that I was there, and when I asked my mate why he wasn’t working he said he couldn’t afford the fuel. He had to wait for other miners to pay him to do cash cuts – he charges $150 per hour – to push other peoples claims.

Many of these genuine gangs take time off to go and work in Roxby Downs, which is a uranium and gold mine closeby. They get $1,000 per week. The guys often question themselves, why do they work so hard in their own opal mines getting nothing when they can go and mine for uranium and be guaranteed $1,000 per week.

As they are all gamblers they go there for a while, get a bit of a stake and then go back to their mine.

I am telling you this because anyone who knows a little bit about opal will probably have heard of Andamooka treating matrix. The whole world wants it, but there are now only fifteen gangs producing it.

The best Andamooka matrix in the rough used to sell many years ago for about $100 per oz. Now it is up to $500 per ounce. I have heard of matrix being sold in jewellery stores in Arizona for $160 per carat. $80 per carat these days is common, and particularly after the Koreans came out and bought up all the matrix that was available, because it looks so much like black opal.

I don’t expect to sell all of my matrix in the next few months, in fact I won’t be offering it all. I intend to put a lot of it in a safe and just leave it there because of the supply and demand. I can’t think of any opal I have got, and that includes black opal, that is going up as fast as Andamooka treating matrix.

The material I have will sell for between $75 and $400 per oz. I will be happy to send you an ounce or two on approval if you would care to look, together with a receipt as to how to treat it.

Whilst I was in Andamooka I also purchased a few other parcels and some magnificent Lightning Ridge blacks. In fact one stone weighs .6 oz. and at only $35,000 per oz., which is a gift for red on black, the stone is only $21,000. It has some little brothers ranging between $700 and $7,000 each.

Feel free to email us or call us to discuss the viewing or purchase of any of the above. We will be more than happy to pass these absolute bargains on to you.

Murray Willis.

If you missed my last letter, be sure to see the tales from Coober Pedy.