Founder and lead opal miner of Australian Unearthed Opal, Dan, moved to Coober Pedy in 1978 as a one-year-old child from his birth city, Sydney.
Backtracking to before Dan's birth, his dad, an experienced opal miner and mechanic, found his way to Coober Pedy in the early seventies. His mum was a bookkeeper and an adventure seeker at heart – and she too ended up in the opal capital of the world in the early seventies, as a tourist.
Back in Sydney, Dan's mum dreamt of the unique characters and lifestyle of Coober Pedy, and so she bought a caravan and journeyed back to South Australia and settled in the opal mining town that had captured her heart. Shortly after, Dan’s parents met, married, and started a family.
Dan's parents were fond of travelling and working throughout Australia during Dan's childhood. And whilst they moved many times, they always gravitated back to their heart place, Coober Pedy.
After Dan was born, and they were back in the town they fell in love with, the time came to make more space for the kids in their underground dugout home – so of course, Dan’s mum and dad simply dug a bedroom for Dan! As they dug their home extension, they were fortunate enough to find a blue, green, crystal opal the size of a cigarette packet worth $1500! Wow, what an incredible and fortuitous find! Dan was literally showered with money in his highchair!
So, it is fair to say that opal mining and appreciation were in Dan’s DNA!
The opal bug had Dan firmly in its clutches from the get-go. At just 12 years old Dan was working in a local opal shop. He spent his spare time after school, on the weekends and during school holidays noodling; riding his motorbike, or bicycle or roaming on foot through the Opal Fields fossicking for opals by hand.
With his passion for the Australian opal growing, Dan commenced mining with his Dad in his late teens, working by hand using a york hoist, buckets and greasy pipes. Gradually he progressed onto obtaining and using his explosive license (a dream come true for many aspiring miners!), a blower (large motorised dirt vacuum) and a jack pick to hunt for precious opals.
Through his twenties, Dan worked as a contractor drilling in Coober Pedy and continued his own prospecting. Lucky enough to drill up some colour on his own claim, Dan bought an excavator, which he had to teach himself how to operate, a noodling machine and a backhoe. The opal bug was alive and well! Over the next two decades, Dan came and went from Coober Pedy working across the mining and resources industries as well as managing his own crane hire and fabrication business.
With the launch of Unearthed Australian Opal, Dan is now back in Coober Pedy for good. Like his parents, the lure of the opal mining town is too strong and he has resigned himself to a life of chasing the elusive opal.
And beside Dan is his life and business partner Renee.
Before meeting Dan, Renee was working as a dressage horse trainer and coach in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, South Australia. She competes locally and interstate on her stately dressage horse “Lui”, who measures a whopping 17.2 hands high! Her students also compete, often successfully winning and placing in their dressage competitions.
The romance between Renee and Dan started with conversations online and over the phone, but before long Dan's spontaneous nature resulted in him driving the nine and a half hours from Coober Pedy to the Hills to meet Renee.
The couple hit it off instantly! Renee appreciating Dan’s dry sense of humour and Dan delighting in the fact that Renee could eat more food than him!
Their friendship grew into a beautiful partnership. Renee quickly developed a keen interest in opal mining which, as you can imagine, sealed the deal for Dan. Despite coming from a completely different life, Renee has taken to the business of opal exploration with passion and is loving the experiences the adventures she is having by Dan’s side chasing the opal!