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Black gold, Texas tea! How a major discovery in a tiny Australian mining town is about to change your world

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The quaint, hot town of Coober Pedy, Australia has long been known for a few things. Opal mining, scorching heat, and underground dwellings because of the former. Now it may become known for something else-something that could change everything.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (Catholic Online) - In the southern part of Australia, in land long forsaken by most, the town of Coober Pedy bakes in summertime temperatures virtually year-round. The community is so hot that people build dwellings underground.

Also underground are opal deposits which make the region one of the leading producers of the precious gemstone in the world. However, another precious resource may change everything. Oil.

Earlier this year, it was announced that geologists had discovered what may be the world's largest shale oil reserve in the world with more oil than several exporting countries combined. Although the estimates run as low as 3.5 billion barrels of oil, high-end estimates say the region, a massive basin of some 30,000 square miles, could contain upwards of 223 billion barrels of oil.

If the larger estimate is accurate, then Australia could become both a net exporter of oil, and the world's largest producer, outpacing even Saudi Arabia.

South Australia's mining minister, Tom Koutsantonis said, "What we're seeing up there is a very, very big deposit. This is a key part to securing Australia's energy security now and into the future."

Presently Coober Pedy has less than 2,000 residents. Within a matter of years, however, that number can balloon dramatically, even in spite of the weather. The community is normally served by a few busses and a couple trains per week. Now, the likelihood of an airport with regular service is great.

Around the town there are over 250,000 opal mine shafts. Some of these will be closed, those producing opal will be protected, and around them new structures will spring up to house the influx of workers and their families, sure to follow the boom times that are approaching.

More importantly, the global financial and political landscape could shift. We can expect to see a decrease of appreciation and concern over issues in the Middle East and a development of interest and power for southeast Asia. Dynamics between Australia and China will also become key.

For now, Coober Pedy remains as it has for decades-a quiet, hot mining town with little to inturrput daily life. However, its transition is already n the works as investors scramble to make early bids on development there. Within a few years, Coober Pedy could be on everyone's lips, and not because of opal or heat, but because of the massive fortunes to be had there.

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