Mining - Least Cost lab

Ann Linsley
Social Studies & Natural Sciences; Bellaire High School
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This is an exercise that simulates the basic cost of mining, transportation and manufacturing activities under the concept of Weber's least-cost theory.

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I adapted and altered this lab activity for an Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Environmental Science course. This is for high school seniors in our advanced studies program.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

  • Basic mining concepts
  • Simple math

How the activity is situated in the course

This lab activity occurs during a section on resource management in the physical earth systems unit. The course has an underlying concept of environmental sustainability and better environmental practices.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

This activity simulates a basic cost analysis of ore mining and optimal location for minimizing the cost of production and transportation. The goal is create a simulation of the factors that have to be considered to maximize profit and minimize costs. A secondary goal is to reinforce math concepts used in analysis level questions.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students have to make decisions to reduce costs and maximize profits through the application of Weber's Least Cost Theory.

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Students work in pairs
  • Applied math skills

Description of the activity/assignment

Students use a simulated land area disguised as a chocolate chip cookie to conduct a mining simulation and least cost theory evaluation. After carefully extracting as much of the available ore (chocolate chips) materials the students calculate the simulated costs of mining and reclamation to determine if there is a profit or loss. These calculations and conversions are used to determine the optimal location for manufacturing in relation to the market.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students successfully work through the mining process and complete the data tables. The second part requires students to calculate how much more ore is needed to meet the required manufacturing amounts. From this point, all student answers should be the same. The answers in the first section vary based on the type of cookie used and the amount of chips mined. Class discussion and question analysis allows students to link the two concepts together to evaluate the economic relationship to resource extraction activities.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

  • Christopherson,Robert. Elemental Geo-systems. Prentice-Hall. 6th ed. 2009.
  • Fellmann, Jerome. Human Geography, Landscapes of Human Activities. McGraw-Hill publ. 9th ed, 2007.