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Known as much for the way most of its 3,500 inhabitants live—underground in dugouts gouged into the hills to escape the relentless heat—as for its opal riches, Coober Pedy is arguably Australia's most singular place. The town is ringed by mullock heaps, pyramids of rock and sand left over after mine shafts are dug.
Opals are Coober Pedy's reason for existence. Australia has
95% of the world's opal deposits, and Coober Pedy has the bulk of that wealth; this is the world's richest opal field.