In 2002, the Homestake gold mine finally closed its doors, in part due to the falling prices of gold. By this time, it was the world’s oldest continuously operating gold mine, and was the deepest gold mine in North America at more than 8000 feet below the surface with about 370 miles of tunnels. A deep underground laboratory was established in the gold mine in the mid-1960s by Raymond Davis Jr. His experiments here, dubbed “the Homestake Experiment”, became the first experiment to observe solar neutrinos. In 2002, the same year Homestake’s mining operations closed, Davis received a Nobel Prize in physics from his work at the mine.
In 2007, the National Science Foundation selected Homestake as the location for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, which now operates as the Sanford Underground Research Facility. Cutting edge research into modern science’s most confounding problems now takes place under Lead. Experiments at the Sanford Lab include searching for dark matter, studying life underground, unlocking the mysteries of neutrinos, mimicking the nuclear fusion of stars, and characterizing the earth.
The underground mine is the ideal location for these experiments because the thousands of feet of rock can shield the ultra-sensitive experiments from background interference. Researchers also have direct access to geological structures that allows the scientists to study fully.
Visitors can learn about the lab at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center through the surface tour and free exhibits. To celebrate Independence Day, fireworks are launched over the huge open cut near July 4 during Lead’s Gold Camp Jubilee Days—easily one of the best fireworks displays in the Black Hills!
Other attractions in Lead include the Black Hills Mining Museum and the Lead-Deadwood Arts Center. Outside of Lead is the Roughlock Falls State Nature Area, a site known for its waterfalls, mountains, and beautiful hiking areas.
Lead has grown from a mining town with the best gold mine in the country to a forefront in groundbreaking scientific discoveries. The town is stuffed full of culture, knowledge, history, and art. Not matter what Lead’s future has in store, it is sure to be record breaking!