Andamooka is a quirky outback town where locals are weathering the decline in mining by turning to tourism.

Story By Gill Rowley

Andamooka, SA, 5722
From the boom of opal mining in the 1930s to the more recent boom brought about by the Olympic Dam Mine, the town of Andamooka is used to life’s ups and downs. Olympic Dam, located 35 kilometres north-west of the town, is the fourth largest copper deposit and the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world. However, its workforce was recently reduced by mine owners BHP Billiton, forcing residents to look at reviving their town as a tourist destination.
Long-term resident Rob Hancock, member of the Andamooka Progress and Opal Miners Association, has experienced the highs and lows of mining at this remote outpost, 620 kilometres north of Adelaide. “Not being located on a major highway, Andamooka is a place that you go to – not through – so the township remains much as it was since the discovery of opal here in 1930,” Rob says. “When Olympic Dam was at its peak between 2006 and 2011 we had a lot of people move into the town and the township changed.”
Rob says most of the current generation isn’t interested in opal mining. “So we’ve turned to tourism to build the town’s future,” he says. “We think we can preserve our opal heritage and promote the individuality of Andamooka. People who visit tell us it’s different to most outback towns because here they can enjoy a step back in time to the ’60s and beyond, when hospitality was at a handshake.”

This Story is from Issue #107

Outback Magazine: June/July 2016