State Offers Financial Support of Underground Mine Proposal; Colorado State Scientists Integral to Project

The state Legislature will financially support a proposed underground laboratory at Henderson Mine, a major scientific collaboration that includes Colorado State University, if the National Science Foundation funds the project, state officials announced Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. Jane Norton is expected to sign Senate Bill 229, sponsored by Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, today. The bill provides $20 million over five years to cover the state’s share of the costs related to the construction and operation of a DUSEL facility that will house a visitors’ center, educational resources and administrative offices.

In July 2005, the National Science Foundation announced an award to develop a site and conceptual design for a Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, or DUSEL, at the Henderson Mine in Empire, Colo. The proposal was submitted by the Henderson Underground Science and Engineering Project (HUSEP) collaboration, a national organization, in February 2005 in response to a proposal solicitation by NSF.

"We are grateful to the state of Colorado for their wonderful support of this very important scientific endeavor," said Bob Wilson, a physics professor at Colorado State University who is the project manager for the award and leader of Colorado’s science team. "If Colorado receives funding for this NSF project, it will be at the forefront of research into deep secrets of the structure of the universe, the Earth, and even life itself."

The academic part of the collaboration has grown to more than 30 academic and research institutions from the United States and abroad. A Henderson DUSEL Consortium, including Colorado State University, will provide oversight of the lab. Stony Brook University in New York will be the lead institution of the consortium, which also includes the Colorado School of Mines, the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Denver.

In April 2004, NSF announced a process of solicitations for proposals to explore the possibility of establishing in the United States what will be an unprecedented national underground facility where revolutionary discoveries and advances in science and engineering would be possible. During the past few decades, large-scale underground physics laboratories in Canada, Europe and Japan have made major discoveries in neutrino physics, but no comparable laboratories exist in the United States.

DUSEL will allow the United States science and engineering community to re-establish leadership in underground science and engineering. The collaboration includes biologists, geologists, physicists, mining engineers, corporate professionals and community leaders.

Colorado and South Dakota are competing to advance to the final round of the DUSEL site selection process. The laboratory is expected to host a variety of underground experiments and will have more than a 30-year lifespan.

The proposed Colorado DUSEL would be a multidisciplinary underground research center that houses a variety of advanced experiments in physics, geoscience and bioscience. Experiments would explore the mysterious nature of neutrinos and the stability of protons that are critical in establishing a unified theory of particle physics; shed light on processes in supernovae and black hole formations; probe the secrets of life that exist deep in the earth and thereby provide crucial clues to the search for extraterrestrial life; examine the properties of the deep rock itself; and establish methods of constructing deep, large and safe underground caverns for a variety of future uses.

The Henderson mine is one of the largest operating underground mines in the world. Established in the 1970s and modernized in 1999, the mine has an extensive infrastructure including high capacity rock removal, electric power, water, water treatment and communications systems needed for DUSEL construction and operation.

The mine owners have been enthusiastic participants in developing the Henderson DUSEL proposal. Henderson Mine is owned by the Climax Molybdenum Co., a subsidiary of the Phelps Dodge Corp.

An essential ingredient of DUSEL is strong support from local communities, state government and academic institutions. The idea of Henderson as a potential laboratory site was first raised by two members of the local county planning commission. U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, Congressman Mark Udall and Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave have provided letters of support and have expressed their intent to follow further developments.

During the 2005 legislative session, a joint resolution of the state Senate and House (SJR 05-014) supporting the Henderson DUSEL proposal enjoyed bipartisan sponsorship and support. Also in 2005, Gov. Bill Owens established the HUSEP Advisory Commission to investigate ways the state could help the initiative. Norton serves as chairwoman of the commission, which includes senior representatives of several key state agencies: Department of Natural Resources, Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, along with representatives from Clear Creek and Grand County, The Arapaho Project and HUSEP. The culmination of the work of the commission in 2006 was Senate Bill SB 06-229, sponsored by Fitz-Gerald, which allocates $20 million drawn from Severance Tax funds.

The HUSEP collaboration is in the process of preparing a detailed proposal for the selection of the DUSEL finalist by NSF, which is expected to occur this year.