Smoke detectors went off at 9 p.m. Thursday at the Soudan Underground Mine State Park in northern Minnesota, signaling what appears to be a fire in the timbers lining the shaft. The park is home to the Soudan Underground Laboratory, a 36,000 cubic meter facility that houses half a dozen physics experiments including one that uses a detector weighing 5400 metric tons to study neutrinos fired through the earth from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory 730 kilometers away in Batavia, Illinois.
The fire is burning between the mine's 23rd and 25th levels, between 610 and 660 meters underground. The lab lies on the 27th level, about 710 meters underground. Officials with Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are considering temporarily sealing the shaft to try to starve the fire of oxygen, says Marvin Marshak, director of the lab and a physicist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, which runs the lab.
Luckily no one is trapped or injured in this incident. These underground laboratories have always had an extensive safety precaution in the event of such fires, because it is a major concern.
The Soudan mine houses neutrino detectors for several projects, including MINOS. Interestingly enough, they had an Open House to the underground laboratory almost a year ago.
I definitely hope that this gets resolved very quickly, and that the pumps can be restarted before water damages become extensive. I think we've had enough news of water damaging things such as water pumps this past week.