Gov. Mike Rounds said Monday that an agreement has been reached to allow the state to take possession of the abandoned Homestake Mine at Lead and proceed with planning for an interim underground science laboratory.
Officials want to locate the lab at the 4,850-foot level of the former gold and silver mine, and experiments could begin within a couple of years. The agreement with Homestake, which is owned by Barrick Gold Corp., would transfer
the mine to the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. Rounds, Homestake officials, and members of the authority were scheduled to have a signing ceremony Tuesday in Lead.
"I want to personally thank Homestake for sharing in our vision to create an interim laboratory," Rounds said. "This agreement could not have happened without the hard work of a lot of individuals, including scientists from throughout the United States as well as people in South Dakota who care about their children's future." [Editorial comment: Huh?]
It will cost about $32 million to open and operate the interim laboratory through 2012, the authority has estimated. The state has access to $15.7 million of that amount, and it has asked Rounds to seek another $16.4 million.
The authority has decided it will not proceed with underground development until it receives the financing.
Homestake officials believe a contingency fund of at least $3.5 million should be created to handle any unanticipated costs connected to resurrection of facilities and equipment in the mine. [Another editorial comment: What the hell does this mean?]
The process of transferring ownership of the mine has involved lengthy and complicated negotiations, said Vince Borg, Barrick's vice president of public affairs.
"The easiest thing for us to have done was to simply follow through on closing the mine and that's it," he said Monday. "But a group of people had an idea that it could be used for an underground lab. That made our life a bit more complicated."
The state and Homestake signed an agreement in principle last year that called for the mining company to donate the property to the Science and Technology Authority once it has obtained funding, permits and the approval needed to construct and operate the underground lab.
Borg said plans for the interim lab have expedited the transfer process. "This allows for it to happen earlier," he said. "This is an amendment to the agreement in principle that deals with the timing for an interim laboratory as opposed to an ultimate laboratory."
The National Science Foundation announced in July that Homestake is one of two sites to receive $500,000 to develop a conceptual design for the underground lab, and officials believe development of an interim lab will improve the chances of eventual NSF funding for a permanent lab. [How does that work?]
Rounds said the lab would help South Dakota become a leader in scientific research and technology.
"This site will become an important tool for scientists throughout the world," the governor said. [Hey, Gov. Not unless it is the DUSEL.]
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