National physics lab one idea for Henderson Mine |

National physics lab one idea for Henderson Mine

Aidan Leonard

EMPIRE – There has been talk of an underground prison. But one of the more serious concepts on the table for the Henderson Molybdenum Mine, once it is decommissioned, is for a national underground physics research facility.

The mine, with operations in Clear Creek and Grand counties, will probably be active for another 15 to 20 years, but that hasn’t stopped county commissioners from the two counties from looking toward the future.

Both sets of commissioners met last week in an executive session with representatives from Gov. Bill Owens’ office, Sen. Wayne Allard’s office and the mayors of Kremmling and Hot Sulphur Springs to discuss the possibility of the underground lab, the Sky Hi News of Granby reported.

Most of those involved were reticent to discuss the matter, saying its still highly conceptual in nature.

“It’s an interesting project, but it’s a long ways away,” Grand County Commissioner Duane Dailey said.

According to Anne Beierle, the environmental manager for the mine, the idea stems from a national search for a dedicated underground research facility for national scientists. Currently, scientists tend to migrate to existing large labs in Japan and Italy for much of their work.

It now appears that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has expressed interest in the mine as one possible sight for the project.

“There are some national science efforts that are coming along and (it appears) that they need laboratory space,” Clear Creek Commissioner Jo Ann Sorensen said. “I have heard that they have had some visitors (at the mine).”

Sorensen said the mine’s existing structure makes it an appealing location.

“It’s a serious proposal,” said Dick Wadham, Allard’s press secretary. “(We’re) working with members of the community in terms of staying in touch with their efforts to secure the NSF to build this proposed facility.”

If constructed, the facility would be a multi-billion dollar project, said one person familiar with the negotiations, but no plans or funding are on the table.

“We have spoken to these people, and that’s about it,” the source said. “It’s way, way premature.”

Indeed, other sites have received far more serious attention, such as the Homestake Mine in South Dakota, the world’s largest gold mine.

“There’s a national interest in the development of an underground physics lab, and there are several candidates across the country that are out there,” Beierle said. “Really, what’s happened is, it’s been recognized that Henderson has some of the attributes that some of these other candidates have.”

She noted that other sites had formal proposals and support, while nothing had yet occurred at Henderson.

“We’re coming late to the game,” Beierle said. “These other sites have been out there for years

“I think it’s an idea,” she added. “I don’t think there’s much more to it than that.”

The mine is located near Summit County’s Lower Blue Valley, on the other side of Ute Pass.

Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User