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Friday, October 14, 2005


Legislature funds Homestake proposal in special session

Called into special session by Gov. Rounds, the South Dakota state legislature made a special appropriation of $19.9 million today for continuing its efforts to turn the Homestake gold mine into the national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory. The plan is to solicit major physics experiments for the lab and use the money to build the necessary facilities for any experiments it attracts.

While scientists originated the proposal to convert the mine into a laboratory, their interest declined when the owner of the mind, Barrack Gold, and state officials pushed economic development schemes over science. The emphasis prior to today's vote on the appropriation was science.

Bill Harlan of the Rapid City Journal reported that a Nobel Prize medal earned from an experiment in the mine was brought to the legislature by University of Pennsylvania physicist Ken Lande, who initiated the proposal to turn Homestake into a national laboratory.

Five year’s ago Lande was the first scientist to publicly call for converting the gold mine into a national underground laboratory. Lande did research for more than 30 years at the “4850 level” in the Homestake mine. His colleague, Ray Davis, who designed the Homestake neutrino experiment, won a Nobel Prize for the work in 2002.

Lande passed around a bronze copy of the Nobel medal at a joint meeting of the House and Senate state affairs committees earlier in the day. “You will see more of these, I think,” Lande said.

If the National Science Foundation eventually chooses Homestake as the DUSEL site from the two remaining sites in competition, it will be because of its promise to produce the kind of science practiced by Lande and Davis. That means that economic development schemes will have to wait until science has done its job.

A full report by Rep. Paul Dennert, who serves on the Joint Appropriations Committee, will be made to the Brown County Democrats Dollar-A-Month Club October 28.

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