A laboratory suitable for hosting ultra-low background science projects, such as the detection of dark matter, needs to be deep underground to reduce signal background caused by high-energy cosmic rays at the earth's surface. Climate studies, carbon capture, astrobiology, astrophysics, and particle physics experiments can all be carried out in this environment almost entirely free of interference from natural background radiation. The underground environment at the Stawell Gold Mine has been assessed as highly suitable for such experiments.
When faced with the closure of Stawell’s largest employer, the Stawell Gold Mine, Northern Grampians Shire Council knew it would have to do something innovative to offset the resulting job losses and profound economic impact. Council immediately initiated the Stawell Gold Mines Future Possibilities Feasibility Study which came up with several options for the site including hydroponics, mining training, tourism, recreation, and landfill opportunities, but the Council never imagined that the 200km kilometres of mine tunnels (that run to 1.6km deep) could be used for the Southern Hemisphere’s first underground particle physics laboratory.
The Stawell Gold Mines Future Possibilities Feasibility Study was innovative, extensive and like no other project Northern Grampians Shire Council had undertaken before. Since the feasibility study was undertaken, Stawell Gold Mines has reviewed its operations and identified further mining development opportunities. SUPL will now be constructed within an operating gold mine. This has multiple benefits for the Stawell Gold Mines, local community and the project itself.