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27 July 2001

Clean up campaign for opal fields

The New South Wales Department of MineralResources has launched a "clean-up" campaign in the historic Lightning Ridge opal fields.

Rubbish and litter are left behind as prospectors and miners move camp, leaving the fields strewn with car bodies, household items and general rubbish.

Alan Coutts, Director-General of the New South Wales Department of Mineral Resources today announced the launch of the campaign saying there was a need for all miners and prospectors to keep their Mineral Claim and Opal Prospecting Licence areas tidy and free of rubbish and litter.

"There are more than 6,000 mineral claims active each year in the Lightning Ridge area and through this campaign we are working with miners and prospectors to encourage the removal of rubbish and litter from the opal fields", he. said.

The clean-up campaign is part of a State Government effort to create a greater environmental focus in the opal fields, including the provision of guidelines for tree planting on former claim areas to rehabilitate the land.

"Conditions of Mineral Claims and Opal Prospecting Licences already contain a requirement to keep sites clean and tidy at all times and we will be reinforcing this rigorously over the coming months", said Mr Coutts

New South Wales is the world's principal source of high quality black opal and the Lightning Ridge fields provide the great bulk of the State's production. In 1999/2000, the value of opal produced. in New South Wales was estimated at $39 million.

"Currently over $7,000 a year in forfeited security money is spent cleaning up sites. Increasing costs could lead to higher security deposits", Mr Coutts added.

As part of the campaign, information outlining the clean-up will be handed to each person obtaining new Mineral Claims and Opal Prospecting Licences and,obtaining renewals of Mineral Claims.

People will be advised not to rubbish and litter the properties they use and travel in, otherwise increased security deposits and imposition of fines will follow.

The Department has also called on the local council to assist with the clean-up by providing additional rubbish bins.

"By attending to the clean-up now, miners and prospectors should be able to resolve the issue without the need for the Department to take any further action.

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