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Work continues to find tenants for Soudan underground lab

A tour group learns about the underground lab at the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park in 2005. The park has been searching for a new lab tenant since two large experiments concluded there in 2016. News Tribune file

Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park is continuing to search for a tenant for its underground lab, vacant since two physics experiments concluded there more than a year ago.

The lab is separate from the park's mine, where tours continue to take place from late May through October.

The park is in talks with several groups about the lab, but nothing has been finalized at this point, park manager Jim Essig said. He said they're hoping to have a firm idea by spring of whether the proposals will work.

"I just got to get all the stars to line up in the right order," he said.

The lab is now empty after the equipment was moved out from the experiments that have concluded in recent years. The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search was moved to a facility called Snolab in Sudbury, Ontario, that's in a nickel mine three times deeper than the Soudan mine. The Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search concluded at the Soudan lab in 2016, but a similar experiment occurring in Ash River is ongoing.

While the neutrino project was in operation, school science classes took tours of the labs during April and May. The lab tours have been suspended since the neutrino project ended, but the park continues to receive interest and may at some point begin a new version of the tours, Essig said. The suspension of the lab tours doesn't affect the mine portion of the state park.