Stawell underground physics lab to help search for dark matter

Published: 30 July 2019

The Victorian Government has announced support for the construction of the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, signalling an opportunity for the town of Stawell to become a global physics research hub.  

Minister for Regional Development Jaclyn Symes last week announced $5 million for the construction of the laboratory, which will be one kilometre underground within the Stawell Gold Mine. 

The lab will provide background research facilities needed in the important search for dark matter – and will put Stawell on the world's particle physics map, helping Victoria attract and retain world class scientists and boost the regional economy. The project is expected to deliver economic value to the Wimmera region of $180.2 million in its first ten years and support nearly 80 ongoing jobs. 

Almost all the laboratory's construction and fit out will be sourced locally from Stawell and Western Victoria, with 15 full-time equivalent roles created during the first phase of work – for geotechnical engineers, earthmoving equipment operators, electrical tradespeople and transport operators. 

The project will also provide local education benefits, with its counterpart project in Italy attracting around 8000 school students each year. 

The Commonwealth Government is providing the remaining funds needed to construct the lab, which will be 30 metres long, 10 metres wide and 10 metres high. 

The project is a collaboration between six university partners – led by the University of Melbourne alongside Swinburne University of Technology, the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics.