Bellbird miner Mark King has taken out the Miner of the Year title at the Lightning Ridge Easter Festival.
Mr King, 43, placed third in the rickshaw challenge to earn a spot in the Lightning Ridge Outback Resort Miners Challenge grand final.
The first three place-getters in the rickshaw competition qualified for the grand final, as did the top three in the strength challenge.
The rickshaw competition contestants shoveled opal dirt into a miner's wheelbarrow, then wheeled it 20 metres down the street to fill up a 44-gallon drum.
In the strength challenge, contestants dragged an automatic hoist for a distance, then held a jackhammer in front of them for a certain time, then directly above their head for as long as they could.
Then in the miners challenge grand final, contestants had to shovel a set amount of dirt into a blower.
Mr King recorded the fastest time – one minute and 30 seconds – and in turn won the The Ridge Miner of the Year 2016 title and $500 cash.
Mr King is a mine operator with Skilled at Mount Thorley Warkworth, and has mined for opal in Lightning Ridge on and off for more than 15 years.
He has two mining leases and a residential claim at The Ridge, and says he enjoys the laid-back lifestyle of the town.
The town’s population fluctuates, with many opal miners working full-time in the mines for about six months of the year, while others – like Mr King – visit at their leisure.
Mr King took on opal miners and hard rock miners in the Easter Festival challenge.
It was his third time in the competition, having placed third in 2013 and second in 2014.
“This is an amazing event, showing locals what the boys can do with a shovel and a pile of dirt sucked up by a blower and pipes,” he said.
The competition is held every Easter long weekend and Mr King encourages any local miners to head up to Lightning Ridge next year to have a go.
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