LEAD — The buildup to and subsequent science experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) is expected to lead to the hiring of dozens of locals.

Representatives from Fermilab and Kiewit Alberici Joint Venture (KAJV) updated the public on Wednesday about the ongoing pre excavation work taking place at the SURF in preparation for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility/Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (LBNF/DUNE) project, and what that means for the local workforce.

“I had to leave this area to get a job, and that’s a pretty common theme,” said Josh Willhite, LBNF far site project manager for Fermilab. “Now we’re able to bring jobs here so we’re pretty happy with that.”

Willhite explained that the current work being done at SURF is what he called building conventional facilities. 

“Building the house inside of which the experiment will live,” he said.

The “house” being built for LBNF/DUNE will be a series of three caverns located underneath the Ross Shaft complex. Two of these caverns will be 65 feet wide, 92 feet tall, and 475 feet long. The third cavern will be 65 feet wide, 37 feet tall, and 625 feet long. It’s estimated that 875,000 tons of rock will need to be excavated from the site to make room for the four, 63 feet wide, 60 feet tall, and 200 feet long cryostats that will hold 70,000 tons of liquid argon used for the experiment.

KAJV was awarded the contract in August 2017 to begin laying the groundwork for the excavation for LBNF/DUNE project, and has been in the solicitation process since May 2018 looking to parcel out portions of the pre excavation work to local and area subcontractors. In December 2018, KAJV signed a long-term lease for office space at the newly renovated Gold Rush Plaza in downtown Lead. Scott Lundgren, project manager for KAJV was on hand Wednesday to discuss the company’s future in Lead.

“We were very happy with the local participation that we were able to generate locally for those kinds of scopes of work,” Lundgren said of the subcontracts awarded to local contractors.

Lundgren explained that there’s a lot of structural work that will need to be done to and around the Ross Shaft complex before the excavation work can begin, including a conveyor being built which will haul the excavated rock from the Ross Shaft complex over Highway 85 to be deposited in the Open Cut. He estimated the excavation to begin sometime in November 2020, and would last around two years. 

“We’ll do our best to make our impact positive,” he said, sighting that the company has already made an impression on the city of Lead with its 14 bright yellow work trucks that can be seen emblazoned with the name Kiewit. “They do stand out, maybe we should have gone with something more like white.”

Lundgren said that over the next six months KAJV will likely be hiring 25 to 30 locals to fill positions, and that number could climb as high as more than 100 in the five year scope of the company’s involvement with LBNF/DUNE.

“Folks that we’ll be looking to hire locally to fill a number of positions… As I mentioned laborers, miners, carpenters, (and) electricians,” he said.  “That’s kind of a six-month snapshot. It probably (will continue) to grow from there.”

Lundgren said that the jobs KAJV will be looking to locally fill would start to be posted within the next few weeks at kiewit.com.

“This is extremely exciting for the future of Lead and it’s very exciting for the state of South Dakota,” Lead Mayor Ron Everett said. “Most of the residents that have been around for a while have been waiting since 2001 to see things happening. A lot of us have known that there are things going on underground but now it kind of shows it’s spilling over from the underground to Main Street. I love to see businesses and employees on Main Street.”

Everett also quipped about the influx of yellow trucks seen throughout the town.

“Lead now has a rush hour. It lasts about two minutes, but we do claim now we have a rush hour,” he said with a laugh.

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