The Future Of The Sanford Underground Research Lab
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:
In 2001, when the Homestake Mine in Lead closed, South Dakota lost one of its iconic businesses. Over the past 14 years, however, that setback has evolved into a unique opportunity, as the Sanford Underground Research Facility has been created within the former mine, nearly a mile underground.
Last week, I met in Pierre with Dr. Nigel Lockyer, the director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. This facility, also known as Fermilab, is just outside Chicago, and is one of our nation’s key national laboratories, focusing on high energy particle physics.
Fermilab and the Sanford Lab are joining together to support the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF). This new experiment will aim a beam of neutrinos through the curvature of the earth, from Fermilab in suburban Chicago to a large underground detector at Sanford Lab in Lead.
I have never felt more optimistic about the future of Sanford Lab than I do today. If approved, this LBNF experiment will be a massive “anchor tenant” for the Sanford Lab, and it will secure the lab for decades, with the LBNF experiment expected to last until at least 2040.
In Washington, D.C., elected leaders and government officials are moving in support of LBNF. The President’s budget includes funds to operate the Sanford Lab and discusses the prospects for future experiments. Officials from the Department of Energy are working closely on the proposal.
The experiment is also receiving international support. A coalition of European nations, as well as nations in Asia and South America, are expressing support for the project. They have also expressed interest in providing financial contributions. Rather than competing with the United States in this area, these nations are pooling their resources with us to support our research.
I am very hopeful that LBNF will continue to move forward and that, within a year or two, we will secure the Sanford Lab well into the future.
We are at this position today because many South Dakotans had the vision to begin this project and the resolve to push it forward. Gov. Bill Janklow began the discussion when the mine closed. Gov. Mike Rounds made the lab’s development a major priority, and during his tenure state legislators put $42 million into its development. Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated another $70 million to move it forward. These funds have led to $160 million in federal funding.
Those investments are already paying off. Sanford Lab has spent $112 million on contractors and vendors, 70 percent of which was spent with South Dakota companies. The lab employs 163 full-time staff and has a payroll of $12.4 million. The lab has brought many researchers to Lead, and it has created new educational opportunities for South Dakota students, including doctoral programs in physics at the School of Mines and USD.
And once LBNF is finalized, it will represent a $300 million construction project in Lead, and will bring even more jobs and activity to the lab.
We can be very proud of the vision South Dakotans have shown in moving this project forward. The future of the Sanford Underground Research Facility has never been brighter.