Community interest in dark matter development

There was a strong show of community interest at Stawell Gold Mines Future Opportunities Information Session last Wednesday night.

Fiona McKenzie from the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, is pictured at the Stawell Airport speaking with Rob Boschen of AGA Services about Fly In-Fly Out.

Fiona McKenzie from the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, is pictured at the Stawell Airport speaking with Rob Boschen of AGA Services about Fly In-Fly Out.

The Centre of Excellence for Particle Research (CoEPP) Director, Professor Geoffrey Taylor provided the community with further details on the potential development of an underground laboratory and the progress towards determining the suitability of the mine site to support the detection of dark matter.

Professor Taylor was joined by Professor Elisabetta Barberio, the Australian leader of the proposed experiment and Doctor Matteo Volpi, who has been on the ground heading up the research.

"People who were there wanted to find out what dark matter is and learn about its quirkiness," Prof Taylor said.

"There was a strong positive reaction to what they learnt. Interest came from a range of community representatives and people just interested in what it is all about."

Northern Grampians Shire Council chief executive officer, Justine Linley said more than 80 people converged on the Town Hall to find out what the potential development could mean for Stawell.

"I was personally really pleased by the turnout. For that number of people from within our local community to be interested is fantastic. It is a welcome thing," she said.

"What we are talking about might be a little bit different, but it is actually a good thing."

Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin said the presentation was highly successful and the unique opportunity identified by the Stawell Gold Mine Future Possibilities project control group has the real potential to benefit Stawell post gold mining.

"Preliminary testing has been extremely positive and the project control group is pleased with how this opportunity is progressing," he said.

"While it's still early days, there is a possibility that the investigations could eventually lead to the construction of a research facility in Stawell."

The CoEPP has begun carrying out a series of measurement studies to determine whether it will be able to utilise part of the underground mine to support a major scientific breakthrough - the detection of dark matter.

Professor Taylor said figuring out what dark matter is made of has become one of the most pressing problems in frontier science.

"While scientists know that dark matter exists and makes up approximately 25 percent of the universe, they still don't exactly know what it is made up of," he said.

"The proposed study at Stawell Gold Mine does not emit noise or radiation and would include a detector complementary to one at Gran Sasso in Italy.

"These 'twin' detectors, placed in similar conditions on opposite sides of the world, could lead to an answer on the dark matter question."

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