The magnificent Mt. Canaway area is in the Mesa Chain that reaches northward from the Queensland border for about 500 miles. This region is known as the Queensland Opal Belt. It is hot, arid land. Mt. Canaway is located in open terrain along with two smaller hills that look like haystacks (hayricks), therefore the name Hayricks for the mine.

In 1929, Joe Knehr and his mate Bill Coleman were prospecting around Mt. Canaway. Most prospectors of that era stayed in the flat lands and did not believe opal could be found on a mountain such as Mt. Canaway. Knehr took a different view. He was determined to trace float opal back to the source on the mountain.

Hayricks • in the Belly
Len Cram tells the story of how Knehr got Coleman to agree to one more hole on the side of the mountain after having no luck. Joe chose the place, They both dug in the hottest most primitive and difficult conditions one can imagine. After working hard one day, Joe climbed from the shaft feeling defeated. He walked away from the shaft, randomly striking rocks and protrusions. Thirty-plus yards away he struck an outcropping of sandstone and it fell away with beautiful color. In telling Len Cram about this in 1954, “Joe could not find words to describe the brilliance of the opal that lay in his trembling hands, being of a quality he never dreamt existed.” This was to become the world’s richest boulder opal mine.

Hayricks has had an interesting history that swung fortunes high and low. A Brisbane dealer paid $18 for the first parcel of thirteen stones. In the depression years a Sydney jeweler offered $50 for a kerosene case full of opal to be delivered from the mine, a distance of over 800 miles.

Hayricks Opal
After Bill Coleman’s death, Knehr left the mine in 1936. After the war he returned to the mine in 1948 at a time when opal was booming. When mine production ceased around 1964-65 there was about a mile of tunnels and related diggings, testifying to the scope of the mine.

In 1987 Ted and Helen Huber bought the Hayricks and subsequently worked it with sons John and Walter. In September 1989 they drilled and blasted the top of the hill to the opal layer 40 meters below. The cut measured 45 meters by 180 meters. Boulder Opal was found in pockets the length of the cut. Seventy percent was good commercial to gem quality opal. In 1996 they sold the lease to their sons who continued to mine until it became too dangerous.

Hayricks Opal
This year, while in Australia, Tim and Barbara Thomas entered into a financial agreement with the Hubers to modernize and accelerate the mining of Hayricks. The Department of Mines approved an ambitious mining plan that is currently being carried out. The first boulder from this venture was recovered September 27, 2001

Tim spent time at the Hayricks in October 2001 and expressed awe at the enormity of the mining project and delight in finding gorgeous boulder opal. TIBARA will have boulder opal from the Hayricks available in quantity in TUCSON, February 2002. Expect to see the world’s most beautiful boulder opal sold in lots for manufacturing jewelers and individually for one of a kind designer pieces.

In addition to Hayricks boulder opal, Tim and Barbara Thomas continue to have an extensive stock of all grades of opal from throughout Australia.

Hayricks Opal

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