Outdoor Activities invites students to participate in their Opal Mining event on Oct. 10 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Spencer Opal Mines.
Rachel Davis, a senior studying biology, said that the Outdoor Activities center takes a group of about 20 students out to the opal mine each semester for this unique experience.
Neil Falke, a junior studying geology, said that students get the opportunity to rummage through rocks in the mine in search for opal during the adventure.
The cost to attend is $15, which covers the cost of transportation, necessary equipment, entrance into the mine, one pound of opal and snacks. Tickets can be purchased at the Spencer W. Kimball Student and Administrative Services Building or online at the BYU-I Opal Mining Web page. A packed lunch is also required.
“Opal is one of the world’s most beautiful and precious gemstones,” according to Opals Down Under’s Web page. “It is one of only six types of precious gemstones found on planet Earth, sharing prestigious company with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and pearls.”
Davis said those who attend the excursion are allowed to take home any opal they do find.
She said some who have attended in the past have had really great success.
Falke said a girl who attended a previous opal mining excursion found a large piece of opal. Unaware of how precious it was, she took it to be polished and appraised, and it ended up being valued between $1,000 and $1,500.
“It was a very different experience and not a typical weekend activity for sure,” Davis said.
Davis said the miners who work at the site supply the participants with the necessary equipment as well as help teach what to look for and how to best go about locating the opal. The participants get to crack open the rocks in search of finding opal.
Falke said participants will not be going into caves, but the miners that work there have already mined out the rocks and made them more accessible to those that come.
“This is a great opportunity if you’re looking for a unique experience and for something different to do on a Saturday or to go explore a different part of Idaho,” said Davis.
There are a number of different folklore stories associated with opals.
“Many cultures have credited opal with supernatural origins and powers,” according to the opal history on GIA’s wepage.. ” Arabic legends say it falls from the heavens in flashes of lightning. The ancient Greeks believed opals gave their owners the gift of prophecy and guarded them from disease. Europeans have long considered the gem a symbol of hope, purity and truth.”
Davis said she had a great experience and would definitely recommend it for anyone to try at least once.
The Spencer Opal Mines is the largest opal producer in Idaho, and is located approximately an hour away from BYU-Idaho, according to the Spencer Opal Mines website.
“If you want to go out and feel like a geologist, and get dirty a little bit and discover something, then I would say do it,” Davis said.