InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources > Unit 6: Mining, Society, and Decision Making > Activity Option 6.2 - Gold Mining and Impacts
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Activity Option 6.2 - Gold Mining and Impacts

Leah Joseph (Ursinus College)
The jigsaw style idea for this unit came from Joy Branlund (Southwestern Illinois College).


Summary

This activity asks students to investigate different aspects of gold mining and think critically about the perceived and real needs for this mineral resource as well as the impacts (both positive and negative) that both gold mining and recycling can have. It integrates concepts and terminology from earlier in the course into real-world situations and personal decision making.

This exercise is set up as a small-group jigsaw activity.

Learning Goals

Upon completion of this segment, students should be able to:
  • Describe how different stages of gold extraction and use (mining, beneficiation, production, consumption, and/or disposal) affect land use; pollute land, air, and/or water; create wastes; and discuss how waste products are/can be managed.
  • Identify stakeholders, explain their viewpoints, and weigh their diverse views in determining if, how, and where to mine and use gold.
  • Make informed predictions of future supply, demand, and impacts of using gold based on (a) population change, (b) technology change, and (c) people's choices, specifically addressing how personal choices impact resource sustainability.

Context for Use

This assignment is intended for introductory geoscience classes within the topic of resource extraction and builds on the information presented in previous units of this module. It is set up as a jigsaw exercise, using peer-to-peer education, and will extend outside of class time (either prior to this unit or after this unit or both), but it is intended to have one day of focused class time. For more information on jigsaws as teaching techniques, please see: Jigsaws.

Description and Teaching Materials

Overall Layout of Jigsaw Exercise on Gold Mining:

In this jigsaw, the exercise is divided into two main segments. Here is the overall concept:
  • Segment 1 ( about 20 minutes):
    • Students are split into one of four small groups. Each group has a different, but related, assignment. Thus, there are four groups learning slightly different content/skills.
    • The four groups and their topics for this exercise are:
      • Group 1: U.S. Historical Gold-Mining Issues and Legacy
      • Group 2: U.S. Current Gold-Mining Decisions
      • Group 3: Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Outside the United States
      • Group 4: Global Gold-Mining Trends/Concentrations/Uses/Recycling
  • Segment 2 (about 30 minutes):
    • Once Segment 1 is completed, students are placed into a second (different) group. Each of these new groups has a single member from each of the original groups (or as close to that as possible), ensuring that each new group will have the collective knowledge from all of the first groups.
    • All groups complete a single assignment, bringing together the information/skills they gained from the previous segment in addition to content learned prior to this unit.
For large classes, a number of jigsaw groups could be set up (i.e., a number of Segment 1 groups completing Group 1 readings and questions, etc.).
Assignment Details:
  • Prior to the class on this unit:
    • Assign students into Segment 1 groups.
      • Readings are intended to be completed prior to the class activity, so give group assignments with enough time to allow students a chance to complete the general readings and videos, and their specific group assignments.
    • Background reading/video watching for the entire class should be completed prior to class. Students can link or download to these readings/videos directly from the Unit 6 Gold Student Materials page.

    • Background reading/video watching FOR EACH GROUP should ALSO be completed PRIOR to class. Students groups can link or download to these readings/videos directly from the Unit 6 Gold Student Materials page.
    • The Segment 1 Group readings/videos are:

      • Although these readings/videos could be completed within the class time, assigning them as homework allows for (a) videos to be used (not all students/classes would have computer access during class time), (b) the chance for more in-depth reading, and (c) more class time to be spent working in groups, rather than doing prep work that could be completed individually.
      • Stress to students that they will be asked questions based on these readings/videos during class, thus they should (a) make sure to read/watch them prior to class time so that they have a greater chance of completing the in-class assignment and (b) bring a hard or electronic copy with them to class so that they can refer back to the articles easily.
  • During class:
    • Review and reflect on material from previous unit(s) and provide a transition to this unit.
    • Present the learning goals for this unit, especially as the handouts for the groups do not list them.
    • Explain the overall goals of the assignment as well as the general structure of the jigsaw.
      • Remind students that they will be the only representative from their first group to bring the knowledge to their second group, so they should be sure to participate and understand the material.
    • Begin Segment 1: Break students into their Segment 1 groups and provide each group with their assigned questions. Let them know that they have approximately 20 minutes to complete this portion of the assignment.
      • Students will need to bring a copy of their answers to their Segment 2 groups. Options include:
        • One student completes the assignment electronically and sends it to all the members of his/her groups (this way they could email the instructor a copy as well).
        • All students write down the answers as they work through the assignment (and if the instructor wants a copy, she or he can photocopy it from one of the students during or after class).
        • One student completes the assignment, it is photocopied immediately and all students receive a photocopy.
      • The Segment 1 Group questions are:

    • Begin Segment 2: Once Segment 1 is complete, split the groups into their Segment 2 groupings, reexplain the jigsaw process, and explain the next part of the assignment and the grading rubric.

      • Each group should turn in a single write-up.
      • Segment 2 groups should begin to work on this part of the assignment and get as far as they can this day. The assignment should be due by the end of the class period, the next class period, or in one week (depending on the extent of the write-up desired by the instructor).
      • If students will continue this write-up after the end of the class period, it may be important to discuss with them the responsibilities involved in completing group work outside of class time. This involves:
        • Once in their Segment 2 groups, have students start by introducing themselves to each other and exchanging contact information so that they can reach each other after the class period is over to complete the assignment.
        • Once they are familiar with the assignment and prior to leaving class, have them write down what each of them will do to help further the project and the time frame in which it will happen. This may help to smooth some of the difficulties inherent in out-of-class group work.

  • After class:
      • Collect the final write-up from Segment 2.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • If possible, it would be helpful if students have access to their computers during class for this activity (one computer per group would work, if not available individually).
  • For more information on jigsaws as teaching techniques, please see: Jigsaws.
  • Students may be able to complete this activity without having first completed the rest of the module, but the instructor will need to spend more time explaining terminology.
  • For beginning students, it may be necessary to provide more support for the students in organizing and writing a paper with references (or completing a PowerPoint) than is provided here.
  • This assignment could fit within a 50-minute class, depending on the final product desired by the instructor (and assuming that the students prepared for class by completing their readings). However, it could also extend out of class time as a homework (more details in description above), particularly if the instructor wants a completed and polished finished product from students.

Assessment

Assessments and Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes are addressed by the activity questions as listed below:

  • Describe how different stages of gold extraction and use (mining, beneficiation, production, consumption, and/or disposal) affect land use; pollute land, air, and/or water; and create wastes, and discuss how waste products are/can be managed: Questions from Groups 1, 2, 3, and 4; Segment 2 Question.
  • Identify stakeholders, explain their viewpoints, and weigh their diverse views in determining if, how, and where to mine and use gold: Questions from Groups 2, 3, and 4; Segment 2 Question.
  • Make informed predictions of future supply, demand, and impacts of using gold based on (a) population change, (b) technology change, and (c) people's choices, specifically addressing how personal choices impact resource sustainability: Questions from Groups 2, 3, and 4; Segment 2 Question.

Instructors could collect the completed answer sheets from Segment 1 from each group with the names of the group members, if desired, and these could be graded on (a) extent of appropriate completion or (b) correct/rational answers.

A possible rubric for assessing Segment 2 is linked above.

Possible Exam Questions

and

and

References and Resources

The data set used to create the graph for the Segment 1 Group 4 handout was downloaded from USGS Historical Statistics for Mineral and Material Commodities in the United States in XLS form under "Gold" and "End-Use Statistics." (At this time the data coverage was through 2003.)

An additional helpful reading for Group 3 material from the UN Environment Programme: Pages 1--11 of Squeezing Gold from a Stone.

An recent additional story on NPR can be found at: New Gold Rush Has Little Luster for Some in the Golden State.

This UN Environmental Programme is helpful in understanding the gold extraction process often used in ASGM: A Practical Guide: Reducing Mercury Use in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining.

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »