From Rapid City Journal via SURF: “Neutrino project could bring elevated conveyor over downtown Lead”

SURF logo
Sanford Underground levels

Sanford Underground Research facility



Apr 24, 2016
Tom Griffith


LEAD | An experiment now in its infancy nearly a mile underground has the potential to put this former gold mining camp on the map as the home for groundbreaking science that could help unravel the mysteries of the universe.

Plans for the groundbreaking project solidified some now that Congress is considering mark-ups in President Obama’s fiscal 2017 budget, which begins Oct. 1, that include $45 million for start-up of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment at Lead’s Sanford Underground Research Facility.

FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF
FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF

The project received another dose of Congressional support last week when U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., added a provision to a sweeping energy bill that would create a new Congressional subcommittee within the National Science and Technology Council specifically focused on high energy physics projects like those underway in Lead.

And the project could alter the look of downtown Lead, where a proposal has been made to build an elevated conveyor system across Main Street to carry an estimated 800,000 tons of waste rock from the lab site into the open cut at Homestake Gold Mine.

While the two acronyms — DUNE and SURF — seem like attractions of a beachfront holiday, they in fact represent man’s most serious attempts to date to understand the origins of our planet. The proposed DUNE project alone involves a collaboration of more than 800 scientists from roughly 150 institutions in 28 countries and with a price-tag estimated at $1 billion to $1.4 billion, about half of which would be spent in the Black Hills.

That would make it the largest, most expensive project in South Dakota history.

“I don’t think you could state the importance of the project too strongly,” said Mike Headley, executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. “This is an international science mega-project. If you look at the current suite of experiments around the world and those planned in the future, this would be the largest in scale.

“To draw a parallel, it would include international involvement on the scale of the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, Switzerland, where the Higgs Boson was discovered,” Headley added.

CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
CERN LHC particles

The Sanford Lab, occupying the massive 8,000-foot deep former Homestake Gold Mine which operated for 125 years in Lead, and the SDSTA have spent years planning for the DUNE, to be placed at the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility construction site at the 4,850-foot level.

Sanford Underground Research Facility Interior
Sanford Underground levels

In fact, private, state and federal funds are being used to refurbish the Ross Shaft, a $30 million project begun in August 2012, now 70 percent complete, that’s on track for completion in September 2017, Headley explained.

Reconstruction of the Ross Shaft is critical to making room for the DUNE, which would require contractors to excavate 800 million tons of rock — nearly twice that removed from Mount Rushmore in the 1927-1941 carving of the four presidential portraits.

All of that rock has to go someplace, so SURF has already reached an easement agreement with Barrick, the Canadian-based owners of the former Homestake Mine and its massive Open Cut, to deposit the excavated rock in the open pit. But, for some, getting it there has become an issue.

SURF recently requested an easement from the city of Lead allowing it to build an elevated, covered conveyor spanning Main Street near Gold Run Park to transport the rock to its final resting place in the open cut. Representatives of SURF, including Headley, have appeared at the last two Lead City Commission meetings to provide project overviews and answer questions and concerns.

“I do have a few concerns regarding the decision to construct a conveyor belt across a major highway that is a main thoroughfare for our community,” said Commissioner Denise Parker. Many of those concerns, including potential dust, debris and noise, have been brought to her attention by local residents, she said.

“While I know that the lab officials are taking every precaution they can think of, there are no guarantees as to the outcomes and as of today, I have seen no memorandum of understanding stating the parameters of liabilities,” Parker noted. “I am deeply concerned that there is no definitive tear-down schedule after the digging and rock moving evolution is completed and there is no longer a need for the conveyor belt.”

Headley said excavation and onsite construction during the peak of activity in the early 2020s, could bring 180 new workers to the SURF on a daily basis, including construction contractors, scientists and other partners. Those workers would not necessarily be added to the 130 employees the Science Authority currently employs at the SURF, he said.

Parker said she would welcome new jobs in a town depressed since the closure of the Homestake in 2002, and the potential for the DUNE to put her community on the map of ground-breaking science.

“When I think that our small community may very well be on the cutting edge of the science of tomorrow, it is almost incomprehensible,” she said. “When one hears of Los Alamos, they think of atomic and hydrogen bombs. I can only wonder what future generations potentially could think of when they hear of the city of Lead, South Dakota; hopefully, something synonymous with peace.”

Mayor-Elect Ron Everett, contacted last week, said he believed SURF’s plan for a conveyor was preferable to another option SURF explored to remove the tons of rock that could lead to 40,000-60,000 round-trip truck loads to move the rock to another site.

“There have been some concerns expressed about dust and what (the overhead conveyor) will look like, but I am all in favor of granting the easement,” said Everett, who assumes the mayor’s post May 2. “It’s the safest and most efficient way to move that rock out of the mine.”

Everett, who recently retired as an executive with mining company Wharf Resources, said he views it as his mission to have Lead capitalize on all of the employment, housing and economic development potential of what the DUNE can bring to the Northern Hills.

“I think people ought to be very excited about the DUNE project,” he said. “It will be an exciting time for Lead over the next 10 years and we want to capitalize on all the economic benefits that will come with this. We want good paying jobs in Lead.”

Headley said city officials and others naturally gravitate to the economic development, employment and financial aspects of the DUNE. But, he said local residents shouldn’t discount the educational opportunities that students at schools and universities throughout the South Dakota and the U.S. would experience from the collaboration of scientists and advanced experiments coming to the Black Hills.

“Folks may not think what could potentially happen here in the next few years in terms of educational opportunities, and the advancement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education for grades K-12,” Headley said.

“The education of our kids is an area that will be profoundly and positively impacted as this project moves forward. After all, we have the brightest minds on the planet coming here to do their life’s work.”

See the full article here .

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About us.
The Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, advances our understanding of the universe by providing laboratory space deep underground, where sensitive physics experiments can be shielded from cosmic radiation. Researchers at the Sanford Lab explore some of the most challenging questions facing 21st century physics, such as the origin of matter, the nature of dark matter and the properties of neutrinos. The facility also hosts experiments in other disciplines—including geology, biology and engineering.

The Sanford Lab is located at the former Homestake gold mine, which was a physics landmark long before being converted into a dedicated science facility. Nuclear chemist Ray Davis earned a share of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2002 for a solar neutrino experiment he installed 4,850 feet underground in the mine.

Homestake closed in 2003, but the company donated the property to South Dakota in 2006 for use as an underground laboratory. That same year, philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated $70 million to the project. The South Dakota Legislature also created the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority to operate the lab. The state Legislature has committed more than $40 million in state funds to the project, and South Dakota also obtained a $10 million Community Development Block Grant to help rehabilitate the facility.

In 2007, after the National Science Foundation named Homestake as the preferred site for a proposed national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) began reopening the former gold mine.

In December 2010, the National Science Board decided not to fund further design of DUSEL. However, in 2011 the Department of Energy, through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, agreed to support ongoing science operations at Sanford Lab, while investigating how to use the underground research facility for other longer-term experiments. The SDSTA, which owns Sanford Lab, continues to operate the facility under that agreement with Berkeley Lab.

The first two major physics experiments at the Sanford Lab are 4,850 feet underground in an area called the Davis Campus, named for the late Ray Davis. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment is housed in the same cavern excavated for Ray Davis’s experiment in the 1960s. In October 2013, after an initial run of 80 days, LUX was determined to be the most sensitive detector yet to search for dark matter—a mysterious, yet-to-be-detected substance thought to be the most prevalent matter in the universe. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment, also on the 4850 Level, is searching for a rare phenomenon called “neutrinoless double-beta decay” that could reveal whether subatomic particles called neutrinos can be their own antiparticle. Detection of neutrinoless double-beta decay could help determine why matter prevailed over antimatter. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment is adjacent to the original Davis cavern.

Another major experiment, the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE)—a collaboration with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and Sanford Lab, is in the preliminary design stages. The project got a major boost last year when Congress approved and the president signed an Omnibus Appropriations bill that will fund LBNE operations through FY 2014. Called the “next frontier of particle physics,” LBNE will follow neutrinos as they travel 800 miles through the earth, from FermiLab in Batavia, Ill., to Sanford Lab.

Fermilab LBNE