The Peculiar Charm of Coober Pedy, Australia’s Opal Capital – by Brett Leigh Dicks (New York Times – March 14, 2022)

Scattered around town are do-it-yourself mining operations, abandoned film props and a cafe that serves both waffles and opals.

It could have been a Saturday night in any Australian town. Against the backdrop of a fiery sunset, a line of vehicles snaked its way into the local drive-in.

At this outdoor theater, though, in place of advertisements for local businesses or a refreshment stand, something else was projected onto the giant screen: a reminder for patrons not to bring explosives into the complex. Welcome to the South Australian town of Coober Pedy, the opal capital of the world, where in days gone by, Saturday night at the drive-in would often end with a bang.

“Coober Pedy has attracted its fair share of characters over the years,” said Stephen Staines, who works on the town’s district council. “People come here for the adventure, and miners would head to the drive-in with their utes” — pickup trucks — “packed full of equipment, including the gelignite they use out on the field.”

“If they didn’t like the movie or got bored,” he said, “it wasn’t unusual for them to throw sticks of gelignite at the screen.” While nights at the drive-in are no longer quite as volatile, the locals are no less defiant. In fact, you need to be in order to survive in one of Australia’s harshest and most isolated environments.

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