A project that could unlock hidden secrets of the universe looks set to commence in Stawell this year.
After several years in limbo, work is expected to get underway on the construction of an underground laboratory at the Stawell Gold Mine.
The Sodium Iodide with Active Background Rejection Experiment, or SABRE, was first proposed to take place at Stawell back in 2014.
A number of roadblocks in the time since have prevented the project from moving ahead, the closure of the mine in December 2016 being the main issue.
The regional town of Stawell in Victoria will host the SABRE dark matter detector at the bottom of a gold mine - imagine the focus of the world's particle physicists will be on this country town. I love it!— Alan Duffy (@astroduff) November 27, 2018
However with a new owner of the mine and its return to production, the project is back on the cards to get going.
“It was put on hold with the mine closure but now that there is a new owner of the mine are in the process of setting up a legal agreement in such a way that we can start building the lab,” project chief investigator Professor Elisabetta Barberio said.
“We are also in discussions with the Victorian government about money they pledged to start construction of the lab.”
The project would be the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere and just the second in the world, with the other in Italy.
Read more: Scientists secure mine access
Professor Barberio said the mine at Stawell presents a great opportunity for the project.
“It is one of the deepest mines in Victoria, so the idea is to build the lab one kilometre underground,” she said.
“We need to test the experiment in the southern hemisphere and the mine at Stawell has worked out to be the best place for that to take place.”
Professor Barberio said she hopes the experiment can begin late this year or by early 2020. She said the building of the lab itself will take the most amount of time.
“Finalising arrangements should not take too long, then we can start excavation,” she said.
“The most time consuming thing will be the fitting of the lab.”
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Scientists from all over the world and Australia are part of the project, involving experts from the University of Melbourne, Australian National University, University of Adelaide, Australia's Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and Swinburne University.
The project has a focus of hunting down the Weakly Interacting Massive Particle or WIMP. Professor Barberio said discoveries could help scientists “understand the nature of dark matter”.
“We want to understand dark matter, which makes up about 80 per cent of the mass of the universe,” she said.
"The only way we have to study the matter is to go underground. We can place our detector underground and from there we wait and see if we can see it.
“It is a very exciting time ahead.”