WHITE CLIFFS TODAY.
White Cliffs today is a small, dusty, quiet, outback mining town. The locals left here dwell mostly underground in the cooler temperatures of about 22 Celsius, or at the pub where they try to beat the heat with a cold beer. White Cliffs services not only the small mining contingent but also the surrounding station owners who may travel up to 100 km for a beer.
Some of the services include the Post Office, the primary school, the hospital, a hotel, a roadhouse, a solar power station, two underground accommodation places and a few opal shops.
The Post Office is a family run business in an historical building dating back to the birth of White Cliffs. Neville and Wendy Dowton have worked here for the past seven years and have renovated this old building to better than it's former glory.
The primary school has in the past catered for more then 25 children, educating them to grade 6 level before they leave for boarding school elsewhere. Currently there are about 8 or 9 children enrolled from White Cliffs and surrounding stations, just enough to keep the doors open. The school has a couple of small buildings and a wind swept playground of sand, stone and play equipment.
The hospital has staff to keep it open most of the time during the week. The flying doctor visits once a fortnight or more frequently in emergencies. They can get to White Cliffs in about half an hour from Broken Hill, not bad really considering you could be stuck in traffic for half an hour trying to get medical attention in a big city.
The hotel in White Cliffs provides the town with cold beer and accommodation. There are times during the year when various parties and celebrations bring nearly all the town folk together at the hotel for a great day or night out.
The Roadhouse provides the locals with fuel, groceries and a few building materials. A transport service is also available. There is also a corner shop offering a similar service.
White Cliffs has at times boasted some world leading technologies. Twenty years ago the power station was the first of it's kind in the world. It harnessed the sun's energy to heat water to steam which then powered the Lister diesel (now converted to steam engine), to run a generator to make electricity. This was while it worked - it wasn't for long - but a lot was learned. Today the solar dishes have undergone changes. At the focal point, a new piece of technology has been added to remove the steam generating system, replacing it with a photovoltaic cell on each dish. This now converts sunlight directly into electricity. It has daily tours.
The two underground accommodation facilities are The Underground Motel and Outback Beds, with both offering plenty of rooms for the weary traveler to rest and escape the summer heat.
The opal shops give the tourists a little insight into how the mining is done - as most owners do actually mine. They also sell various other pieces of art to help extend their range of products to satisfy the visiting tourists.
There are a few organizations helping the town to survive with most locals involved voluntarily.
The most popular pastime in White Cliffs is of course opal mining. This activity is extended to all those who visit from simply fossicking (or as the locals say 'noodling’) through to open cut mining. Visitors are usually encouraged to go noodling in and around the old workings to find stones that were accidentally thrown away by the old timers. Some good finds have been discovered and this encourages even the locals to have a noodle.
The more serious miner will have a little bit of paperwork to do before he commences, such as registering a claim and transferring a bond onto his claim if he chooses to open cut. The bond is a negotiated figure between yourself and the Department of Mines to guarantee that the miner will rejuvenate the land back to as it was prior (that is, fill in the open cut and maybe even revegetate).
Most miners opt for underground mining. Though slower, many choose this option as it costs less to get started. This is so they can to be in for as good a chance as the big time miners. Most of these miners are usually part time or tourist miners as it is easy to lock up the mine and go back home and return next holidays.