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).

These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards as detailed below. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more.

Overview

This activity is designed as a jigsaw activity, which includes ample opportunity for SEPs P6 (constructing explanations), P7 (Engaging in argument from evidence), and P8 (obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information). The exact SEPs required of each student are involved to different extents depending on which group the student is in for the first part of the jigsaw.

Science and Engineering Practices

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking: Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations. HS-P5.2:

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Gather, read, and evaluate scientific and/or technical information from multiple authoritative sources, assessing the evidence and usefulness of each source. HS-P8.3:

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically). HS-P8.5:

Engaging in Argument from Evidence: Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world or the effectiveness of a design solution that reflects scientific knowledge and student-generated evidence. HS-P7.5:

Engaging in Argument from Evidence: Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and/or logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations). HS-P7.6:

Engaging in Argument from Evidence: Compare and evaluate competing arguments or design solutions in light of currently accepted explanations, new evidence, limitations (e.g., trade-offs), constraints, and ethical issues HS-P7.1:

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations. HS-P6.5:

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future. HS-P6.2:

Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. HS-P4.1:

Cross Cutting Concepts

Systems and System Models: Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales. HS-C4.3:

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Natural Resources: All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors. HS-ESS3.A2:

Human Impacts on Earth Systems: Scientists and engineers can make major contributions by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation. HS-ESS3.C2:

Performance Expectations

Earth and Human Activity: Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems. HS-ESS3-4:

Earth and Human Activity: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios. HS-ESS3-2:

  1. This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

    • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
    • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
    • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
    • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
    • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.

  2. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

    This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
    • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

    For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.


This page first made public: Oct 16, 2014

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 Readings/Videos for Entire Class

    1. Read Gold. (Acrobat (PDF) 1019kB Jan16 14) Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey. This slightly older publication by the USGS will provide students with background information on gold. It links well with the terminology and concepts introduced in prior units, so students should be able to see how concepts apply to gold and gold mining. This reading can also be found here: Gold.
    2. Watch video A Modern Day Gold Mine (about 6 minutes). This video is from the World Gold Council (www.gold.org), which is a self-named "market development organization for the gold industry."
    • 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:

Group 1 Background Readings/Videos

  • Group 1: U.S. Historical Gold-Mining Issues and Legacy
    • Pre-class Reading 1: Carson River Mercury Site---Overview. (Acrobat (PDF) 827kB Jan16 14) Courtesy of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. This is a description of the gold-mining industry in this area in Nevada, which has a history of gold mining and is thus dealing with the impacts of legacy mining. The Carson River Mercury Site is on the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) National Priorities List (NPL).
    • Pre-class Reading 2:Golden Opportunity for Abandoned Mines in Nevada City. Students should watch the video on this EPA website in addition to reading the website. This article and video describe an area in California that is also dealing with some of the negative legacy left by gold mining. This article discusses desired future uses of the area and working with the community to test and evaluate the local environment.

Group 2 Background Readings/Videos

  • Group 2: U.S. Current Gold-Mining Decisions
    • Pre-class Reading 1: EPA Opposes Plan for S.C. Gold Mine. This news article discusses why the EPA wants to get more information from a mining company in the eastern United States.
    • Pre-class Reading 2: 800 Jobs Put on Hold at Lancaster Gold Mine. This news article discusses job loss due to the delay encountered while generating an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the EPA and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
    • Pre-class Reading 3: Haile Gold Mine Env Impact Statement FAQ (Acrobat (PDF) 340kB Jun20 14) provided courtesy of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Charleston District. This article provides important information about possible concerns of community members about the potential mine expansion. Instructors should make it clear to students that they do not need to read/remember this longer document word for word but should skim through each FAQ in order to answer the questions posed later.

Group 3 Background Readings/Videos

  • Group 3: Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) Outside the United States
    • Pre-class Reading 1: Pages 1--8 ofMercury Use in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining. This UN Environment Programme article describes the use and impacts of mercury in ASGM mining.
      • If this link is no longer accessible and the article cannot be located via a search, please use this summary instead: Mercury Use in ASGM Summary in Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 153kB Oct7 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 117kB Oct7 14)
    • Pre-class Reading 2 (Page 9 and Page 68):A Practical Guide: Reducing Mercury Use in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining. This UN Environment Programme document (a set of graphs and bullet points) discusses the significance of mercury used in ASGM (in amount and in impact).
    • Pre-class Video (from UNEP; about 8 minutes):Mercury in Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining http://www.unep.org/flvPlayer/videoplayer.asp?id=27529&l=en This video provides a visual for how mercury is used, and how the environment and people are exposed to mercury in ASGM.
    • It would be helpful if Group 3 is reminded that ASGM stands for artisanal and small-scale gold mining prior to completing these readings.

Group 4 Background Readings/Videos

      • 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:

Group 1 In-Class Questions

Group 1: U.S. Historical Gold-Mining Issues and Legacy

Group 2 In-Class Questions
Group 2: U.S. Current Gold-Mining Decisions

Group 3 In-Class Questions

Group 3: Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Outside the United States

Group 4 In-Class Questions

Group 4: U.S. and Global Gold Mining Trends/Concentrations/Uses/Recycling
    • 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.

Segment 2 Overarching Question

      • 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.

  • Alternatives to Segment 2:
    • Instead of (or in addition to) asking the students to complete a write-up, instructors could ask groups to prepare a brief (five-minute) presentation to give to class on their findings. Inform the students that, although there may be some amount of repetition in the different presentations, groups will likely present different arguments and supporting information.
    • Instead of Segment 2 as written here, the new Segment 2 student groups could be asked to approach the overall question from different perspectives, where each perspective would give the group a different "leaning." One set of the groups could be asked to challenge the assumptions of the questioner (Answer Question 4 and not 3), while others could be asked to support the assumptions (Answer Question 3 and not 4). Then Question 5 could be re-posed to the entire classroom after the assignment is complete for class discussion (this might be particularly fitting if students have presented their write-ups to each other and could be the culminating exercise).
  • 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

Unit 6 Potential Assessment Questions in Word


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and
in PDF.


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Unit 6 Potential Assessment Questions Key in Word


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and
in PDF.


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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.

Entire Class

  1. Kirkemo, Harold, Newman, William L., and Ashley, Roger. Gold. USGS Publication 23 pages. http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/gold/gold.pdf.
  2. "A Modern Day Gold Mine," 2012. World Gold Council. http://www.gold.org/research/modern-day-gold-mine-video.

Alternate: The Process of Excavating and Refining Gold. Triwood1973. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apD5cPVsDjc.

Alternate: How Gold Is Produced. 2009. Newmont Mining Corporation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_feJwOwsCzc.

Each Group

Group 1:

      1. Carson River Mercury Site---Overview. State of Nevada, Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Division of Environmental Protection. http://ndep.nv.gov/bca/carsonriver/criver_1.htm.
      2. "Golden Opportunity for Abandoned Mines in Nevada City. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency" (Pacific Southwest, Region 9). http://www.epa.gov/region9/waste/features/nevada-city/index.html.

Group 2:

      1. Fretwell, Sammy. April 2011. "EPA Opposes Plan for S.C. Gold Mine." The State. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/04/01/111378/epa-opposes-plan-for-sc-gold-mine.html.
      2. "800 Jobs Put on Hold at Lancaster Gold Mine" July 6, 2011. WBTV.com. http://www.wbtv.com/story/15036680/800-jobs-put-on-hold-at-lancaster-gold-mine.
      3. Haile Gold Mine Env Impact Statement. 2011. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Charleston District. Downloaded from http://www.hailegoldmineseis.com/feis.html

Group 3

      1. Mercury Use in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining. 2008. United Nations Environment Programme. http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Portals/9/Mercury/AwarenessPack/English/UNEP_Mod3_UK_Web.pdf.
      2. Telmer, Kevin, and Stapper, Daniel (primary authors). 2012. A Practical Guide: Reducing Mercury Use in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining. United Nations Environment Programme. http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Portals/9/Mercury/Documents/ASGM/Techdoc/UNEP%20Tech%20Doc%20APRIL%202012_120608b_web.pdf.
      3. Gould, Rob (Director), Lamb, Gus (Producer), Robert-Charrue, Bernard (Executive Producer). Mercury in Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining. One Planet Pictures (Available from United Nations Environment Programme; about 8 minutes). http://www.unep.org/flvPlayer/videoplayer.asp?id=27529&l=en.
Alternate: Toxic Gold---Mercury and Artisanal Gold Mining. 2014. Pure Earth Blacksmith Institute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK31kob6ei8.

Group 4

      1. Gimurtu, Alec. May 23. 2012. "Will 'Peak Gold' Exploration Continue to Grow? USGS' Michael George."The Gold Report. http://www.theaureport.com/pub/na/13438.
      2. United Nations University. July 6, 2012. "E-Waste: Annual Gold, Silver 'Deposits' in New High-Tech Goods Worth $21B; Less than 15% Recovered." ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120706164159.htm. And at: http://unu.edu/media-relations/releases/step-news-release-6-july-2012-e-waste-precious-metals-recovery.html.
      3. Coren, Anna (Interviewer). 2009. "Gold from Recycled Electronics." CNN Turner Broadcasting System. http://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/international/2009/08/02/coren.japan.urban.miner.cnn&iref=allsearch. And at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bU-NwowzVE.
      4. Wu, Ariane (Producer, Editor), and Schell, Orville (Executive Producer). 2011. Digital Debris: The Toxic Path of Electronic Waste. China Green Asia Society. http://sites.asiasociety.org/chinagreen/feature-ewaste-afterlife/. Video downloaded for embedding from (and can also be viewed at): http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2011/jun/14/toxic-electronic-waste.

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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 »