LEAD Scientists at both Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead and Fermilab in Batavia Ill., are anxious to begin collecting data from the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility/Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (LBNF/DUNE); however, before the world’s largest neutrino experiment can begin producing results, more than 800,000 tons of rock will need to be removed from the 4,850-foot level of the former Homestake Mine to make room for the detectors.

“Up until now, the smaller excavations haven’t had to bring rock to the surface. There’s been unused pathways (or) wider areas that are unused you could put that material,” said Patrick Weber, division head for Fermilab’s South Dakota division.

In order for Kiewit/Alberici Joint Venture (KAJV), the construction firm contracted to clear the way for the LBNF/DUNE detectors, to excavate the area around the Ross Shaft, a conveyor system built along the footprint of the old Homestake tramway system will need to be erected, which will carry the excavated rock 3,700 feet across U.S. Highway 85 and deposit it into the Open Cut. 

“The conveyor belt is what people will see, that’ll be the most visible part of the whole project to the broader city,” Weber said. 

Simultaneous to the foundation work being done for the conveyor system on the surface, pre excavation work is being done at the 4,850-foot level of the lab. An ore pass, which was filled in after the Homestake mine ceased operations is being dug out so it can once again serve its given purpose once excavation of the cavern begins.  

“We load the rock into that ore pass, and at the bottom of that ore pass there’s a mechanism that actually takes a certain amount and puts in to the big skip bucket. It then goes to the surface and is crushed, then it goes on to the conveyor belt and in to the Open Cut,” Weber said.

Weber said with all the work that’s being done below the surface, its important for all the entities involved in the LBNF/DUNE excavation project that people throughout the Black Hills have a sense of the effort being put into the project; and as the most external part of the process, he said the conveyer system will serve that purpose well.

“It’s a signal that there’s other work happening too,” he said. “You think about the rock handling system below the 4,850 level, you think about the installation of the skips themselves, the installation of the cage in the Ross Shaft all of those different pieces are happening at the same time even though you can’t really see them when you’re driving by the facility.”

Pre excavation work including upgrading and reinforcing the Ross Shaft and ventilation system to the Ross Campus, and erecting the conveyor system will carry through 2020. Excavation is scheduled to begin in 2021.

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