The Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) is being constructed within the footprint of the defunct Homestake Gold Mine, located near Rapid City, in South Dakota, United States of America. The DUSEL will provide scientists and engineers with a dedicated facility capable of supporting a broad spectrum of fundamental and applied research within the Earth's crust to depths in excess of two kilometers.

Major research partners of this multi-disciplinary facility are physicists, biologists, geochemists and rock engineers. The potential range of experiments is bored and as plan are developed it is expected that opportunities for cross-cutting, synergistic research will emerge. Physics proposals call for the construction of rock caverns with excavated volumes in excess of half a million cubic metres, spans of over 50 metres, sited at depths of up to 1.5 km. the paper will outline the range of rock mass conditions anticipated at the site and discuss key end-user requirements and design criteria that are likely to play determinant roles in the selection of preferred sites and experimental options. The paper will underline the need for upfront investigation of candidate sites and the potential benefits of incorporating engineering research into the design and construction programme.


The Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) will be a new facility dedicated to underground research. DUSEL will bring together a diverse group of science and engineering partners interested in conducting a new generation of experiments deep within the Earth's crust.

To accomplish its goals, DUSEL is being planned as a multi-level underground facility with laboratory campuses sires from near surface to over two kilometres in depth. The main campus facilities will include dedicated space for laboratories, workshops and offices, all connecting to a site-wide infrastructure network. "Outpost facilities" are also planned to provide for drilling and sampling in zones of geologic and biologic interest. Additionally, rock mass volumes may be isolated under user-controlled conditions to study key topics in rock mechanics and the earth sciences, such as rock mass behaviour under stress and water flow in fractured aquifers.

DUSEL will offer rock engineers opportunities to test new techniques, equipment and materials, both as an integral part of the DUSEL design and construction process, and as independent engineering research tasks, undertaken at dedicated experimental sites.

Existing underground physic laboratories have more typically been built within mine footprints or adjacent to road tunnels. These laboratories benefit from access to underground expertise and cost defrayment for construction, access, infrastructure and operation, but suffer the constraints that a junior partnership necessarily entails. Unlike such "parasite sites", the DUSEL facilities will be purpose- built and operated for research alone. According to Kotcher (2008) half a billion dollars have been indentified to finance the construction and operation of the DUSEL facility. This budget is intended to support the reopening of the Homestake mine to its full depth and fund frontier research in a broad range of disciplines.

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