Scientists could start experiments to detect dark matter as early as next year, following the completion of excavation work for the underground laboratory at the Stawell Gold Mines.
The excavation work, which was completed by the owner-operator of the gold mine, began in August 2019.
Stawell Gold Mines General Manager Troy Cole said the main laboratory chamber excavation had required a high-level of engineering to ensure the longevity of the facility.
Explosives and heavy machinery were used to excavate the two caverns, clearing approximately 4700 cubic metres before rock bolts and supports were installed prior to spraying shotcrete to reinforce the cavern.
"The materials used to secure the cavern and cover the rock walls were all specially sourced to ensure the environment is suitable to host the types of experiments which will be located within the laboratory," he said.
The federal government contributed $5 million towards the building of the facility and another $35 million to establish the ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics that will lead research at the lab.
Education Minister and Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said building the laboratory deep underground would allow researchers to conduct experiments that rely on precise measurements using some of the world's most sensitive scientific equipment.
"The search for dark matter is at the cutting-edge of science, involving the intersection of particle, nuclear, and quantum physics," he said.
"The underground laboratory will attract world-leading scientists to Australia to conduct important research."
It takes 35 to 40 minutes to drive down seven kilometres to reach the 12 metre by 10 metre entry portal into the physics lab which will have a main research hall that is 33 metres long, 10 metres wide and 12.3 metres high.
University of Melbourne Professor and Director of the research centre Elisabetta Barberio said Stawell Gold Mines was a perfect location for Australian physicists to work together to find dark matter.
"We expect that in about one year from now, we will be able to fit out a high-tech laboratory," she said.
"As cosmic rays cannot reach one kilometre underground, we are in an ideal location to carry out our experiments."
A contract will be awarded to build the underground lab, with the tender process expected for later this year and the Stage 1B works to be undertaken in 2021.
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