InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources > Unit 4: Mineral Resources Created by Sedimentary Processes > Activity 4.2 - Mining Sand
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Activity 4.2 - Mining Sand

Joy Branlund (Southwestern Illinois College)
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Summary

Students will analyze data and answer questions regarding the weathering, erosion, and deposition responsible for concentrating shoreline titanium placer deposits in Florida.

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Learning Goals

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

  • Describe the processes that act to make sedimentary rocks with specific reference to how sedimentary processes redistribute and concentrate mineral resources. This activity specifically addresses erosion, deposition, and chemical weathering.
  • Diagram how the processes link together to form placer deposits that are mineral resources.
  • Apply knowledge of sedimentary environment, climate, and sedimentary processes to infer potential types and locations of mineral resources.
  • Give examples and uses of mineral resources that are formed by sedimentary processes. Specifically, students will see that titanium dioxide (from the mineral illmenite) is derived from sedimentary processes, and should be able to list its use in paints, papers, and plastics.

Context for Use

This activity focuses on sedimentary processes and can be used in introductory geology or environmental science classes. The level of prerequisite knowledge is minimal, but we suggest that students read the background information and understand basic characteristics of minerals. This activity is designed to be completed in groups, but it can also be completed independently. This activity can be completed in classes of any size, as well as online.

Description and Teaching Materials

There are several titanium-rich sand deposits in Florida and Georgia. One such sand deposit is the Trail Ridge mine owned by DuPont. Although titanium is used as a lightweight metal, especially in airplanes, titanium dioxide (TiO2) is used by DuPont to created pigments for paint. The mine also recovers the minerals zircon and staurolite, both of which are used as abrasives.

Some heavy mineral sand deposits are beach deposits (deposited by waves), but the Trail Ridge deposit is an aeolian (windblown) dune field inland from the shoreline. In the Pliocene or Pleistocene (sometime between 12 thousand and 5.33 million years ago), the Trail Ridge dunes existed just west of the beach.

Studying the Trail Ridge deposit allows students to apply concepts such as erosion and deposition to the concentration of heavy mineral sands, and chemical weathering to the concentration of titanium in the mineral ilmenite.

Student Handout: Mining Sand Activity in Word (Microsoft Word 421kB Feb9 15) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 606kB Feb9 15)

and

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • This activity should be completed in small groups during the class period. All needed materials are provided in the handout (provided above). However, providing an introduction to the mine site and uses of mined minerals would be ideal. Use the DuPont website to create this introduction.
  • To complete this activity in only 35 minutes, the instructor should omit Questions 7 and 8. The activity's Question 7 requires that students both draw a graph and make predictions, which can be a daunting (and time-consuming) task for introductory students.

Assessment

Student answers to questions can be collected and graded, or self-graded and discussed.

Assessments and Learning Outcomes

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

  • Describe the processes that act to make sedimentary rocks with specific reference to how sedimentary processes redistribute and concentrate mineral resources. This activity specifically addresses erosion, deposition, and chemical weathering: Activity Questions 1, 2, 6, 9, and 10.
  • Diagram how the processes link together to form placer deposits that are mineral resources: Activity Question 3.
  • Apply knowledge of sedimentary environment, climate, and sedimentary processes to infer potential types and locations of mineral resources: Activity Questions 9, 10, and 13.
  • Give examples and uses of mineral resources that are formed by sedimentary processes. Specifically, students will see that titanium dioxide (from the mineral illmenite) is derived from sedimentary processes, and should be able to list its use in paints, papers, and plastics: The entire activity deals with ilmenite (TiO2), which is concentrated during erosion and deposition, and used to make white pigment.

References and Resources

DuPont Corporation's Trail Ridge Facility.

Force, Eric R. 1991. "Geology of Titanium-Mineral Deposits." GSA Special Paper 259.

Force, Eric R., and Rich, Fredrick J. 1989. "Geologic Evolution of Trail Ridge Eolian Heavy-Mineral Sand and Underlying Peat, Northern Florida." U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1499.

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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 »