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S. Dakota Chosen for Physics Lab

June 01, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The National Science Foundation has selected South Dakota's Homestake Mine as the best site for a possible deep underground physics laboratory, the director of the foundation's physics division said.

"The panel, after extensive deliberations, unanimously concluded that the Homestake Mine was, by far, the most favorable site," Joseph Dehmer wrote in a letter Friday.

The decision does not mean the laboratory will be built. But the foundation said the geology of the closed gold mine in Lead, S.D., is better than two alternatives, and would be cheaper to convert.

Homestake has been considered as a lab site since October 2001 when scientists identified it as one of the best locations for the study of neutrinos. Work with the subatomic particles must be conducted deep underground to eliminate interference from other particles.

A laboratory could boost the regional economy and provide jobs for some of the miners who were laid off when Homestake closed.

Before it shut in 2001, the mine had operated almost continuously since 1876, producing 10% of all the gold found in the United States.

The other two sites evaluated by the foundation were the Soudan Mine in Soudan, Minn., north of Duluth, and at Mount San Jacinto, near Palm Springs, Calif.

The Minnesota site, while not as favored as Homestake, will be considered a backup to the South Dakota site, while the California location is not feasible because of uncertain geological conditions and relatively high costs, the foundation said.

The project would rival a laboratory in Japan used for research that resulted in a Nobel Prize for a scientist.

The scientist, physicist Masatoshi Koshiba, shared honors last year for his work at Tokyo University's Super-Kamiokande research facility, the world's largest neutrino detector, built inside an abandoned copper mine in mountains 170 miles west of Tokyo.

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