Abandoned Mines and Dugouts in Coober Pedy
by jimsurbex
January 9, 2024

Coober Pedy is a Mining town 846km north of Adelaide South Australia, named after the indigenous term “kupa-piti” which means “white fellas hole”. As of 2021 the population of Coober Pedy was around 1.5k and over half live underground in dwellings known as “dugouts”. These underground dugouts are full houses built underground and stay at a comfortable temperature of around 25ºC day and night.

abandoned dugout coober pedy

Since its discovery in 1915 Coober Pedy has produced around 75% of the world’s opal and with Approximately 2 million abandoned opal mines its potential for urban exploring is extremely high. We traveled to Coober Pedy from Adelaide to explore abandoned mine tunnels with the Belly Cave Podcast crew. Fellow explorer Autopsy of Adelaide tipped us off about the mother of all tunnels, so big you can drive your car through and let me tell you this thing was HUGE. I estimate the tunnel was around 20 meters high and would have had to be dug with large commercial mining equiptment like a bogger or escavator.


coober pedy abandoned mine

This tunnel, which was approximately 1km long, ended before the smaller tunnels began. The smaller tunnels appeared to have been dug by a tunneling machine. Tunneling machines are specially made for digging through the Coober Pedy soil and leave circular markings on the walls that are very unique. They look like small tractors with a boom arm and a cylindrical cutting head that can be raised and lowered to dig about 2 meters high. The underground workings in this patch are all 20-25 meters below ground, the lower of the tunnels reaching ground water. This mine was a labyrinth connected by rooms with bore holes in the roof, so each room was lit from above.

After exploring the large mine, we drove back to town and discovered abandoned dugouts filled with strange items. We didn’t touch most of them because they seemed cursed. Local wildlife seem to have taken up residence in these dugouts, such as bearded dragons and bats. We had to spend all our time exploring underground because it was around 45 degrees outside and you would almost get heatstroke instantly if you spent more than 5 minutes in the sun. The thought of building a dugout in Coober Pedy became increasingly tempting to me as I heard stories of people who had bought inexpensive land and then discovered opal deposits while digging their homes, essentially paying for the property in full.

I would definitely recommend visiting Coober Pedy. It is a unique place in the Australian outback. I have many more places to explore in this town so until next time!


  1. Michelle Quick

    How do you know if a dugout is abandoned or is just not occupied? Is there official or legal criteria or a council registry. (Like unpaid council rates).

    • jimsurbex

      Thats a really good question, I have no idea


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