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The Coober Pedy Precious Stones Field, from which the opal is mined, covers an area of 4,954 square kilometres of which it is estimated that approximately 10% of the total area has been worked.
Although opal had been discovered elsewhere in Australia around the late 1800's and early 1900's, it was first discovered in this area by Willie Hutchinson, aged 15 years, in February 1915.Following this discovery settlement began and subsequently developed into the modern town of Coober Pedy. After World War 1, returning soldiers started to drift here and introduced the unusual and unique method of living underground in "dugouts", as many had done in the trenches of France.