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Invitation to take on the King of Opal Mining

Mark King, the King again! Photo contributed

The miner’s challenge at the Lightning Ridge Easter festival is a popular and gruelling event for miners and mining enthusiasts.

The Miners Challenge event requires participants to use a ‘rickshaw’ – an opal mining wheelbarrow – to transfer dirt from a designated starting point.

The challenge involves shovelling the dirt into a 44-gallon drum in the shortest amount of time. It is a tough event that requires not just a level of fitness but also some thought and tactics.

Fifty-year-old Mark King is a dominant force in the competition, having won the last four years in a row.

With the prize money doubling to $2000 in cold hard cash this year, more entrants will likely be interested in challenging Mark for his title.

As someone who has been coming to the Ridge since 1997, King has faced some tough competitors like Ron Canlin and Milan Milas, both tough, fit miners in their day.

According to Mark King, Ron Canlin still won events when he was well into his 50s.

“There have been some tremendous experienced and not-so-experienced contenders in the competition over the years, and seeing new entrants and fresh faces in the battle is always exciting,” Mark said.

“My family and I always enjoy coming for Easter every year - there is always so much to see and do, even for regular attendees of the festival.

“Generally, I come to the Ridge a week before the event to get into some mining and practical exercise. I like to keep fit during the year by going to the gym and bike riding; it all helps,” he said.

Mark said he likes to visit the Ridge every month or so during the winter months, to do some mining.

“I have the opal bug and have accumulated some decent machinery to help with mining. It is on my bucket list to retire out here and continue to mine for the elusive opal,” Mark said.

So, if shovelling dirt into a rickshaw and handling heavy jackhammers are your thing, why not head to Lightning Ridge on Easter Saturday and give the champ a run for his money?

With the prize money doubling this year, there’s even more incentive to compete!


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