On March 21, 1998, a landslide impacting the Homestake Gold Mine’s open cut area temporarily halted operations. By April, underground mining was once again safe. However, the workforce at the mind was reduced from 850 to just 380 employees and gold production was reduced from 400,000 ounces to approximately 180,000 ounces per year.
Just three years thereafter, officials announced that the Homestake Mine would permanently close. Larry Mann, the mine’s spokesman, stated that despite management’s best efforts, coupled with significant downsizing in 1998, the mine’s corporate officials believed there was no scenario in which the mine could be as productive as it had once been. Coupled with the falling price of gold, stockholders could not expect adequate returns on their investments in the mine.
When shutdown was complete, the remaining buildings of the Homestake Mine stood vacant. Some time later, talks of transforming the former mine into an underground research laboratory arose. The National Science Foundation became interested in the mine because the deep tunnels are an ideal location to study elusive particles called neutrinos and dark matter. After a large donation of $70 million by T. Denny Sanford in 2006, the site was selected to become a Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL).
After years of delicate construction, Homestake is now known as the Sanford Underground Research Facility and continues to study dark matter and neutrinos 4,850-feet underground. The lab now attracts scientists and science enthusiasts from around the world to learn the past, present, and future of the former mining goliath.
To learn more about the Homestake Gold Mine, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s digital history archive. Learn more about the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory at the former Homestake Gold Mine at the Black Hills Knowledge Network issue hub page.