TOWER, Minn. (WCCO) –- Firefighters continued to battle the blaze that started in a mine shaft in the Soudan Underground Mine Friday by dumping hundreds of gallons of firefighting foam and thousands of gallons of water down the shaft.

Tower firefighters are hopeful the fire is dying out, according to a report by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. As of Saturday morning, carbon monoxide levels in the shaft had dropped, leading firefighters to believe the fire is nearly snuffed out.

Carbon monoxide is produced during combustion. The lack of carbon monoxide molecules measured in the shaft signals to firefighters that combustion has slowed and that the fire is running out of fuel, the report said.

The water being dumped into the shaft, however, may cause problems.

The Soudan Underground Laboratory, located in the mine, is worth between $50-$100 million and may be damaged if water used to fight the fire seeps into the lab.

According to the report, experts at the University of Minnesota have calculated that 244,500 gallons of water would need to enter the mine before the laboratory will be at the risk of damage. As of Saturday morning, firefighters had dumped 50,000 gallons of water into the shaft.

Marvin Marshak, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, said that two important experiments are being conducted in the mine – one on dark matter and another on neutrinos. Both studies seek answers as to how the universe was formed.

Marshak said he is optimistic about the progress firefighters have made.

At the moment, firefighters are attempting to establish power in the mine to get the sump pumps, which pump 35,000 gallons of water out of the mine a day, running, the report said. However, the firefighters must first figure out if the fire has damaged the mine’s infrastructure and if it is safe to enter, the report said.

Comments (12)
  1. mark from says:

    Who cares about the lab, what about the chemicals getting into the drinking water, where is that story?

    1. Jim Herbert says:

      I care about the Lab. I also work with water supplies. That part of the state is all rock, I don’t think there IS any water supply, except in local rock fractures.

      Like you, many Americans don’t care about basic research anymore. Maybe that’s why all the physicists have moved to places like Switzerland (& China?).

      So when the generation 6 computer and phone toys that are all offshoots of this type of research require you to recite Chairman Mao to activate, you can then have the opportunity to expand your horizons.

    2. Jacker says:

      Yeah like you care about water contamination. Get back to your bible bumping you lowly educated troll…

    3. doc o says:

      its not a chemistry lab dufus

  2. Peggy Brennan says:

    I care about the Lab, too. I know important work is being done there. I hope the equipment is safe. It’s a unique study area that can’t be duplicated. It would be a loss, not just to Americans, but the world at large if the lab has been compromised.

  3. ranger says:

    Didn’t you know the oldest water known to man is in the bottom of that mine,

    Lets hope all the reident bats that hold up in the mine aren’t dead.

  4. richard K says:

    It is simply another academic hole to pour money into. I am not worried about the bats, old water or chairman Mao. Salvation through Jesus Christ is the ONLY promise we can depend on.

    1. Rick says:

      “Ride the Comet” !!! YES YES!!

  5. Greg Laden says:

    This is important and interesting research. I hope the gear is not damaged.

  6. Jacker says:

    — Jesus is not going to help you since there is no such thing.

    — It’s all made up just like Santa and the tooth fairy. There was a time when unexplainable things were explained by a ‘god’ but this time has passed with observations based on actual science .

    — I feel sorry for you types. Then again maybe your going to ‘ride that comet’ on May 22’nd LOL!

  7. Craig says:

    These are basic research projects that make use of the unique characteristics of the mine and if successful will provide some vary significant information about dark matter and the universe, It’s a very long term project with what I consider a very good cost / benefit ratio, $100M for this type of research is very cheap considering the potential benefits.

    I am curious about how or why the fire started in the first place and what is actually burning, it’s an iron mine, not coal mine, what’s in the mine that could be burning? Electrical I suppose, but it would have been nice if the reporter had dug into that a little more.

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