LEAD, S.D. — International mining group Thyssen has been awarded the contract to excavate the enormous caverns required for Fermilab’s Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility.
“Award of the main cavern excavation contract is a significant milestone for the L.B.N.F./D.U.N.E. project and marks a major step towards the start of world-class science,” said Chris Mossey, Fermilab Deputy Director for L.B.N.F./D.U.N.E.-U.S. “We’re excited to welcome Thyssen Mining to our team and start work on the next major phase of work.”
On-site construction work is slated to begin in April 2021 with the caverns being located a mile underground, rising up to seven stories tall, and covering an area almost the size of two football fields. Excavation crews will drill, blast, and remove approximately 800,000 tons of rock to create the underground space for L.B.N.F. The excavated rock will be hoisted to the surface and transferred 4,200 feet on a system of conveyor belts, built this year by Kiewit Alberici Joint Venture, the construction manager and general contractor for the project. When operational, the new rock transportation system will move the rock from the hoist to the former open cut mining pit in Lead.
The conveyor system itself should not create any noticeable noise. However, the falling of rock from the conveyor into the open cut may generate audible noise, within the limits permitted by city ordinance. Fermilab has issued a letter to residents with more information.
Once completed, the facility will house the gigantic particle detector for the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment hosted by Fermilab. More than 1,000 scientists from over 30 countries are collaborating on D.U.N.E., which will provide the foundation for international neutrino research for decades to come.
The excavation will create an underground space to house the experiment, as well as laboratory space, a maintenance shop, a generator room, a spray chamber, and a series of interconnecting tunnels, known as drifts, to connect the three large caverns in which the D.U.N.E. neutrino detector modules and utilities will be installed. The facility will comprise three caverns to house and support the experiment. The north and south caverns are identical in size (475 feet long x 65 feet wide x 92 feet high) and will house the gigantic particle detector modules. The central cavern (624 feet long x 64 feet wide x 37 feet high) will accommodate cryogenic equipment and other utilities needed for D.U.N.E. The total expanse of the facility will exceed four acres.
Using the particle accelerator complex at Fermilab, scientists will send an intense neutrino beam through 1,300 kilometers of rock from Illinois to the D.U.N.E. particle detector in South Dakota to understand the role that neutrinos – the most abundant matter particles in the universe – play in our cosmos.
Thyssen Mining has begun the early phase of their contract, including the onboarding of personnel, contracting local vendors, and preparing their equipment for use underground.
“Our planned labor force for this project is expected to be between 110 and 120 people,” said Thyssen Mining’s U.S. General Manager Ryan Moe. “Our team will consist of many of our trained and experienced miners, operators, mechanics, electricians, engineers, and managers who have worked on multiple cavern projects within the Thyssen organization. We will in the near term, however, be posting numerous positions locally to fill in alongside with many of these similar roles. As our planning advances, we’ll have better information on the exact number of positions needed.”
The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment are supported by the Department of Energy Office of Science. More information on the LBNF/DUNE project can be found here.