InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources > Unit 4: Mineral Resources Created by Sedimentary Processes > Activity 4.3 - Mining Salt
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Activity 4.3 - Mining Salt

Joy Branlund (Southwestern Illinois College)
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Summary

Students will research two types of salt deposits: solar salt (e.g., facilities in Bahamas) and rock salt (e.g., Heber City, Utah). Students will be able to compare and contrast the two types of salt deposits by creating a concept map.

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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 (especially crystallization and deposition) redistribute and concentrate mineral resources.
  • Diagram how the processes link together to form mineral resources, specifically with regards to evaporite (salt) deposits.
  • Apply knowledge of sedimentary environment and operational processes to infer potential types and locations of mineral resources.

Context for Use

This activity focuses on chemical sedimentary processes and can be used in any geology or environmental science class. It requires that students have computer and Internet access. Ideally this will be done as a homework assignment but can be done in class if time allows. The activity can be modified to be used in classes of any size.

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity can be completed for homework or during class time (see alternative version listed below). Students need to have read the background information before completing this activity. To help students answer the question about the concept map, the instructor should provide a list of terms (see attached PowerPoint) and either give them the partially completed concept map (see linked PowerPoint) and/or work through this activity as a class.

The Student Assignment

Research how (a) salt is produced and mined in solar salt facilities such as those in the Bahamas, and (b) how salt is mined from underground rock salt deposits in places such Redmond, Utah.

Answer these questions:

    1. Define the following in your own words: weathering, erosion, crystallization, deposition, lithification.
    2. Draw a concept map to show how the rock cycle explains the steps necessary to form each of the two salt deposits you researched.
    3. In what sorts of places do you think salt deposits are forming today? (What are the characteristics of places in which salt deposits can be found?)
    4. The completed concept map can be used to answer this question: Is "sea salt" really any different from normal (rock) salt? Explain your answer.
    5. What are the pros and cons of mining salt in solar salt facilities versus the underground mining of rock salt?

Student Handout: Mining Salt Activity in Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 329kB Oct5 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 296kB Oct5 14) A version of the above assignment to hand out to students. Instructors should edit this in order to instruct the students to either create their own concept maps or use the partially completed map.

Practice Concept Map in Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 613kB Apr21 14) and in PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 527kB Apr21 14) This concept map shows the sedimentary part of the rock cycle. This concept map is also available for students to download from the Unit 4 Student Materials page.

Instructions in PowerPoint For Questions 1 and 2 (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 305kB Oct5 14) This PowerPoint can be projected to answer Questions 1 and 2 in class discussion format (see adaptation below). It also has a partially completed salt mining concept map with a list of missing terms that need to be included; students help the instructor complete the concept map on the board.

A Partially Completed Salt Mining Concept Map (Acrobat (PDF) 150kB Nov4 14) (with blank rectangles for students to fill in). If the instructor wishes to have students complete the concept map individually, he/she may opt to give them this partially completed map (above) and have them fill in the blank boxes with the terms provided.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • This activity can be completed either as homework or during class.
  • Adaptions for doing this activity during class
    • If an instructor chooses, this activity can be completed during class time. Students can research solar salt and underground rock salt mining at home and come prepared to discuss answers. Or, the instructor can find short online videos on each type of salt mining (see links below for suggestions), and the class can watch these together and then complete the activity.
    • Questions can be posted or provided to students in handouts, then discussed as a whole class or in small collaborative groups. Students should work in groups of three to develop their concept maps. Instructors need to be aware of the ability levels of their students and plan a sufficient amount of in-class time to complete their maps. If your students are unfamiliar with concept maps, then it may be beneficial to assign a short reading on creating concept maps as a pre-class assignment. This page has more information about concept maps.

Assessment

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 (especially crystallization and deposition) redistribute and concentrate mineral resources: Activity Questions 1 and 2.
  • Diagram how the processes link together to form mineral resources, specifically with regards to evaporite (salt) deposits: Activity Question 2.
  • Apply knowledge of sedimentary environment and operational processes to infer potential types and locations of mineral resources: Activity Question 3.

References and Resources

Discovery Channel. 2009. HowStuffWorks, season 1, episode 9. How Salt Works. Accessed at http://videos.howstuffworks.com/discovery/35570-howstuffworks-show-episode-9-solar-salt-production-video.htm. The first video highlights solar salt mining.

America's Heartland, episode 506, Salt of the Earth, produced by KVIE Sacramento California, distributed by American Public Television. Accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vk-A6cgkIT0. This video highlights rock (dry) salt mining.

Stromberg, J. 2014. What Happens to All the Salt We Dump on the Roads? at Smithsonian.com.

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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 »