Coal: China, Energy and Kyoto - I. Evaluating Coal Leases for Possible Mining

James D. Myers
Geology & Geophysics, University of Wyoming
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Students evaluate coal leases to determine their potential for coal mining. Each company, student group, creates subsurface geologic models for each lease. Using these models, they recommend to the company board of directors which lease should be pursed further.

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Two courses: 1)upper division geology course for majors and non-majors; 2) introductory level course on global sustainability

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Visualization in 3-D; map construction and interpretation (topo, geologic and structural contour maps); construction of cross-sections; knowledge of coal formation, characteristics and occurrence; basics of geologic mineral exploration, e.g. drilling, coring, sampling, interpreting logs

How the activity is situated in the course

Part one of a 3-part case study (geology, economics, social impact)


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Coal formation; exploratory drilling; coal rank and quality; coal logging; mining classes and methods

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Construction of mental models, i.e. subsurface geology; designing data collection schemes; interpreting incomplete data sets; evaluating sources of model error; balancing need for information and completeness versus acquisition cost; selecting appropriate mine type and mining methods based on deduced geologic model

Other skills goals for this activity

Writing reports, preparing and delivering oral presentations; working in groups; understanding the professional tasks associated with mineral exploration and exploitation; identifying environmental/social trade-offs; identifying externalities of coal mining

Description of the activity/assignment

Students evaluate coal leases to determine their potential for coal mining. Each company, student group, has three leases and an exploration budget. Students design and implement an exploratory drilling program on each lease and collect partial borehole cores. Using the resultant data, each company creates geologic cross-sections for each lease as well as structural contour maps. Based on their geologic models, they recommend, in oral and written reports, on which, if any, of these leases the company should pursue and how the extractable coal seams might be recovered.

Determining whether students have met the goals

  • Grading of oral and written reports via rubics;
  • Pre-post activity assessment instrument

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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