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Dick Gowen, one of the earliest and staunchest advocates of converting the Homestake gold mine in Lead into an underground laboratory, has resigned as the leader of that effort.

Gowen is executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. Gov. Mike Rounds and the state Legislature created the science authority earlier this year to promote Homestake as the site for a national underground laboratory.

Dave Snyder of Lead will resign from the authority's board to replace Gowen, who will retire.

"It's been an interesting, exciting journey," Gowen said Thursday. "I've done what I needed to do."

Gowen is a former president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. He began working on the underground lab proposal four years ago, when he was still president of Tech. Rounds named him to head the state science and technology authority last year, when Gowen retired from Tech.

Gowen also has suffered a number of health problems over the past few years, including open-heart surgery and three hospitalizations related to a ruptured colon. Through it all, associates say, he has continued to work more than full time.

Now, Gowen says, he really will retire. "I'm finally doing the rehab I need to do for my recovery," he said, though, typically, he was on the job Thursday.

Snyder, who is originally from Nebraska, will bring different skills to the job. He was a co-founder of D&D Farms, which started as a management company for farms. In the 1980s Snyder converted the company to large-scale hog farming in Colorado. Snyder sold the company in 2000 and retired.

South Dakota's role in the underground laboratory would as landlord to scientists. (If Homestake is selected, mine owner Barrick Gold Corp. has promised to donate the mine to the state.)

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"At this juncture, we need to be looking at how to make this happen from a business standpoint," Snyder said.

Now 60, Snyder has lived on a ranch south of Lead. He has been active in community affairs in Lead, including development of the Mickelson Trail.

Converting the closed Homestake mine into a national laboratory is a giant science project, but it also has the potential to be the biggest economic development project in Lawrence County since the discovery of gold there in 1876.

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Homestake is among half a dozen sites competing for the National Science Foundation's final recommendation as the site for the nation's "Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory." The so-called "DUSEL," if approved by the White House and Congress, could grow to a project attracting billions of research dollars over the course of decades.

Physicist Kevin Lesko of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California is leading a group of scientists who are developing the Homestake proposal. Lesko and other scientists are meeting in Rapid City this week to hammer out specifics of the proposal, which is due at the NSF by Jan. 10.

Snyder said the state science authority's role will be to demonstrate that a Homestake lab would practical. "The ultimate decisions will be dollars and cents decisions," he said. "This is what I think I can bring to the authority. How it all comes together financially is the biggest challenge we have."

Snyder takes over from Gowen on Nov. 15.

Gov. Rounds has appointed Steve Zellmer of Rapid City to take Snyder's place on the science authority board.

Contact Harlan at 394-8424 or at bill.harlan@rapidcityjournal.com

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