Morlocks of the world, unite... in Lead!

The effort to convert the old Homestake mine into a bustling underground science laboratory has been left in limbo by the National Science Foundation's withdrawal of funding. NSF may have backed away from Homestake in part because South Dakota officials were pushing the economic development benefits of the project so much that reviewers questioned whether the state was serious about doing lots of hard science.

If South Dakota really is more interested in economic development at the old mine, perhaps we could turn our attention to a much wilder mine-refit project: an underground city! Architect Matthew Fromboluti proposes reclaiming open pit mines by covering them with earthen domes held up by giant inverted underground skyscrapers:

The building is completely self-sustaining, with its own power source, water recycling system, and mechanisms such as a solar chimney to control the artificial climate. Enclosed with a dome roof, the building is completely contained underground, with only strategically-placed skylights for climate control providing access to the world above ground. However, the society living inside is far from isolated &ndash a light-rail system connects the building with nearby Bisbee [Danielle Del Sol, "Skyscraper, or Sustainable Underground Society?" Evolo, 2011.10.11].

(Funny that a woman named for the sun writes about an underground city.)

Above-Below underground habitat, by Matthew Fromboluti

Above-Below underground habitat, by Matthew Fromboluti

Now Fromboluti's domed habitat is designed with Arizona in mind, not the snowy Black Hills. Perhaps his skylights would not let in enough sunlight during the fall and winter. Maybe seven feet of Black Hills snow would overload those trusses.

But imagine the possibilities! Fill that giant pit in Lead with offices, shops, apartments, and hotel space. Plant gardens and grow fruits and vegetables year-round on the terraces. Build an underground light rail from the underground city to Deadwood for all the gamblers and another spur up to Terry Peak for the skiers. Devote half of the living space to tourists and the other half to snowbirds (or maybe sunbirds?) who want to get away from the wild weather up above.

And between books, my neighbor Stan could make some extra money shoveling snow off the sunroofs! Now that's economic development we can all love.