InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources > Unit 3: Mining and Mining Impacts
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
showLearn More
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 materials are free 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 »
How to Use »

New to InTeGrate?

Learn how to incorporate these teaching materials into your class.

  • Find out what's included with each module
  • Learn how it can be adapted to work in your classroom
  • See how your peers at hundreds of colleges and university across the country have used these materials to engage their students

How To Use InTeGrate Materials »
show Download
The instructor material for this module are available for offline viewing below. Downloadable versions of the student materials are available from this location on the student materials pages. Learn more about using the different versions of InTeGrate materials »

Download a PDF of all web pages for the instructor's materials

Download a zip file that includes all the web pages and downloadable files from the instructor's materials

Unit 3: Mining and Mining Impacts

Leah Joseph (Ursinus College)
Author Profile

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.


This page first made public: Oct 16, 2014

Summary

In this unit, students are introduced to basic mining methods and processes. This unit also addresses some of the impacts of mining (particularly from mining for metals) on the environment and human health, and integrates concepts such as ore grade, economics, and mining-related decisions with resource use and manufacturing. Optional materials are provided so that instructors can modify the unit according to their class schedule and focus.

Learning Goals

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

  • Apply different mineral exploration and mining methods in model situations and extrapolate to real-life cases.
  • Describe how wastes are created and managed during the different stages of mineral resource production and what can be done to minimize the negative effects of mining and related processes.
  • Give examples of how mining activities affect or are influenced by societal factors (i.e., economics, politics, population).

Description and Teaching Materials

  • Pre-Class Work:
    • Students read about basic mining methods and processes as well as some of the impacts of mining on the environment and human health.
    • Students complete a homework assignment (optional) that focuses on historical impacts of mining and mineral processing in the United States.
  • In-Class Work:
    • Review and discuss the homework.
    • The first in-class activity option (Muffin Mining) provides students with a hands-on way to review and integrate information from the reading.
    • The second in-class activity option (Ore Grades, Waste, and Remediation) focuses on the interrelationships of ore grade, economics, mining-related decisions, and other factors.
  • Post-Class Work:
    • An optional wrap-up homework assignment will illustrate the complexity in producing something as (seemingly) simple as a can of soda.

Pre-Class Work

Reading

Students should complete the background reading on the basics of mining and mining impacts before they do the pre-class homework and before class. Similar to many textbook readings, the background intentionally contains more information than will be directly presented in class. The PowerPoint versions can be also be used to help review the material in class.

The PowerPoints are large files with many images and may take some time to download.

PowerPoint versions:

Background Information about Mining Methods and Impacts. (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 44.4MB Oct4 14) Students can download this PowerPoint directly from the Unit 3 Student Materials page.

Background Information about Mining Methods and Impacts - Short. (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 44.4MB Oct4 14) This is a simpler version of above, with the same (but larger) images and less text, and may be more useful for classroom use, if desired.

Word/pdf versions:

Background Information about Mining Methods and Impacts in Word (Microsoft Word 2.7MB Oct4 14) and in PDF: (Acrobat (PDF) 2.4MB Oct4 14) Students can download the PDF version directly from the Unit 3 Student Materials page or complete a similar online reading on the Unit 3 Student Materials Reading page.

Unit 3 Mining Glossary of Terms in Word (Microsoft Word 30kB Oct4 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 60kB Oct4 14) Students can download this glossary directly from the Unit 3 Student Materials page.

Optional Pre-Class Homework

This (optional) assignment asks students to investigate some of the harmful impacts of mines, mining, and mineral processing on the environment and human health. Students research Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) and National Priority List (NPL) sites, many of which are still being cleaned up today. Later in the module, students may draw on this background information when discussing mining in other countries where the regulations are not as stringent as those in the United States.

Mining Methods and Impacts AML and Superfund Pre-Class Homework.

An alternative version of this pre-class assignment (included in the link above) uses class time to formally discuss the homework using a Gallery Walk. What is a Gallery Walk?

In-Class Work

  1. As appropriate, ask students to briefly reflect on concepts from the previous unit (Unit 2 Boom & Bust). As a connector, the instructor could remind students that our demand for "stuff" drives the extraction and processing of mineral resources.
  2. Briefly review impressions from homework assignment (if optional homework was assigned). See Teaching Notes and Tips in the Mining Methods and Impacts AML and Superfund Pre-Class Homework for suggestions of questions to use at the start of class to review and reflect on this homework, as well as an alternate way to use this homework assignment as an in-class activity.
  3. Run one of the two activities. If an instructor has only a single 50-minute class to work on this unit, she will likely want to choose one of the two activity options below. The length of the activities (as well as the introductory materials above) can be adjusted based on the time the instructor has for class. If she has a longer class period, or multiple class sessions, both activities could be completed or each activity could be drawn out (described in the links below).
    • Activity Option 1: Muffin Mining (about 30 minutes): This hands-on activity involves student groups mining the blueberries or chocolate chips out of a muffin. This activity helps facilitate discussion about mining and mining methods, waste, beneficiation, landscape destruction, and reclamation methods, and is a good mechanism for reviewing the reading with students. For instructors for which this activity is not feasible, this activity can be replaced with the Gallery Walk version of the pre-unit AML and Superfund homework (see above), or Activity 2 (below) can be expanded.
    • Activity Option 2: Ore Grades, Waste, and Remediation (25--45 minutes, depending on how the instructor sets up the assignment; click this link for more information): This activity focuses on the interrelationship of ore grade, economics, mining impacts/decisions, and other factors. It is intended as a small-group activity, where different groups of students work on one of three different parts, with classroom discussion as a follow-up. Before the activity, the instructor may want to briefly review some of the terminology that the students may still be unfamiliar with, such as "ore grade" and "cut-off grade," and may want to review basic math skills as needed to complete this second activity.

Post-Class Work

Optional Reading/Assignment for after Unit 3

As a follow up to Unit 3, students are asked to create a concept map detailing the steps necessary to produce a can of soda. The narrative includes inputs from mining, energy, and transportation that are needed to produce components of the can in addition to the soda itself. This assignment allows application of the concepts covered in this unit to the production of a single commonly-used product. The teaching notes include an explanation of the assignment, an example assignment, and a grading rubric.

A Can of Soda Concept Map Assignment Teaching Notes in Word (Microsoft Word 121kB Oct4 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 99kB Oct4 14)

A Can of Soda in Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 137kB Oct4 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 87kB Oct4 14) The narrative that students should read about the production of a can of soda. Students can download the PDF directly from Unit 3 Student Materials.

Two Examples of A Can of Soda Concept Maps in PPT


This file is only accessible to verified educators. If you are a teacher or faculty member and would like access to this file please enter your email address to be verified as belonging to an educator.

and
in PDF.


This file is only accessible to verified educators. If you are a teacher or faculty member and would like access to this file please enter your email address to be verified as belonging to an educator.

: This includes two different versions of a concept map associated with this reading, although student answers could vary significantly. The PowerPoint version of this has some comments for the instructor; the pdf version does not.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • The instructor will not be able to complete all the activities/homework assignments provided for Unit 3 in a single 50-minute class. The instructor should select what works best for his individual class.

Assessment

Assessments and Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes are addressed by the activities as listed below (see activity sheets for more details):

  • Apply different mineral exploration and mining methods in model situations and extrapolate to real-life cases: Pre-Class Reading, Pre-Class Homework, Muffin Mining Activity, Ore Grade Activity, The Case of Soda Optional Homework.
  • Describe how wastes are created and managed during the different stages of mineral resource production and what can be done to minimize the negative effects of mining and related processes: Pre-Class Reading, Pre-Class Homework, Muffin Mining Activity, Ore Grade Activity.
  • Give examples of how mining activities affect or are influenced by societal factors (i.e., economics, politics, population): Pre-Class Reading, Ore Grade Activity.
Possible Exam Questions

Unit 3 Possible Exam Questions in Word


This file is only accessible to verified educators. If you are a teacher or faculty member and would like access to this file please enter your email address to be verified as belonging to an educator.

and
in PDF.


This file is only accessible to verified educators. If you are a teacher or faculty member and would like access to this file please enter your email address to be verified as belonging to an educator.

Unit 3 Possible Exam Questions with Answer Key in Word


This file is only accessible to verified educators. If you are a teacher or faculty member and would like access to this file please enter your email address to be verified as belonging to an educator.

and
in PDF.


This file is only accessible to verified educators. If you are a teacher or faculty member and would like access to this file please enter your email address to be verified as belonging to an educator.

References and Resources

  • In addition to the individual references and resources noted within the background readings/PowerPoints and Activity websites provided above, a strong reading for students or background information for the instructor on mining metals (used in creating the background reading): Metal Mining and the Environment by Hudson et al. (1999). American Geological Institute.
  • Additional interesting articles about exploration technologies:
  • Additional interesting information:
    • An article about the value of U.S. coin versus how much they cost to obtain (and links to topics covered particularly in Activity Option 2): Isidore, Chris. February 2012. Obama Wants Cheaper Pennies and Nickels. CNNMoney. If this link does not work, the article can likely be located by searching the article name.
    • The beneficiation and processing necessary to make a platinum ring from recycled platinum: How Platinum Rings Are Made.
  • Sources of information for A Can of Soda assignment:
    • Chapter 2 of Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones (2003). Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York, NY 10020.
    • Chapter 3 of Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins (1999). Back Bay Books. New York, NY 10020.

Already used some of these materials in a course?
Let us know and join the discussion »

Considering using these materials with your students?
Get pointers and learn about how it's working for your peers in their classrooms »

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 »