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Unit 5: Mineral Resources Created by Igneous & Metamorphic Processes

Prajukti (juk) Bhattacharyya (University of Wisconsin, Whitewater)
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Summary

This unit introduces the concepts of igneous and metamorphic processes and how these processes create mineral deposits. The background material provides an overview of the formation and distribution of mineral resources created due to hydrothermal activities, their tectonic association, and acid mine drainage (a major environmental concern for sulfide mining). The activity, in which students analyze a simplified geologic map and use the information for mineral exploration, addresses economic mineral resources created by mostly igneous processes, specifically metallic sulfide deposits. Students also weigh the pros and cons of mining near Yellowstone National Park and on the shores of Lake Superior.

Learning Goals

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
  • Explain how mineral resources are concentrated by hydrothermal activity, and how this links to intrusions, volcanism, and plate tectonics.
  • Identify the potential environmental impacts of sulfide mining and associated activities.
  • Identify stakeholders, and weigh their diverse views in determining if, how, and where to mine.
  • Practice geoscientific habits of mind by identifying geologic features and infer spatial distribution patterns on a geologic map for mineral exploration.

Description and Teaching Materials

Pre-Class Work

Reading: General Background on Igneous and Metamorphic Rocks

These resources (also available for students to download at Unit 5 Student Materials or read online at Unit 5 Student Materials Reading) summarize igneous and metamorphic processes that can form economic mineral deposits. Students should have access to (and read) this material before class and should bring copies to class to use as reference material during the in-class activity.

Word/PDF Versions

Background Reading on Mineral Resources of Igneous and Metamorphic Origin in Word (Microsoft Word 811kB Oct5 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 4.5MB Oct5 14)

Unit 5 Glossary of Terms in Word (Microsoft Word 26kB Oct5 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 41kB Oct5 14)

Reading Required for In-Class Activity: Background on Yellowstone National Park and Lake Superior
This document provides the geologic background of the region near Yellowstone National Park and Lake Superior needed for the in-class activity. It is highly recommended that the students review this document before class and refer to it during the in-class activity. This is also available for download on the Unit 5 Student Materials page.

Student Reading on Yellowstone National Park and Lake Superior in Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 2.2MB Oct5 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 2.3MB Oct5 14)

Optional Pre-Class Work

WHOI: Hydrothermal Vents (approximately 4 minutes): This is a short informative video about how hydrothermal vents form along mid-ocean ridges, how they create sulfide mineral deposits on the ocean floor, and why they are important. Depending on the need for specific courses, the instructor might want to have students watch this video before class. Students can link to this video directly from the Unit 5 Student Materials page.

In-Class Work

This activity is designed for a 50-minute class period. Ideally, students should work in small groups to complete the in-class activity. The instructor may also choose to use the accompanying reading material (above) during class for a brief overview and introduction.

Student Handout: Metallic Sulfide Deposits in Yellowstone and near Lake Superior in Word (Microsoft Word 362kB Oct5 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 502kB Dec12 14)

Handout 1: Generalized Geologic Map Showing the Locations and Extents of the Copper-Gold Mineral Deposits around Homestake Mine near Yellowstone National Park. (Acrobat (PDF) 693kB Oct15 14) This map should be handed out for use with the in-class activity.

and This answer key also contains some general suggestions for guiding the student discussion.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Students should bring a copy of the background reading on mineral resources to class (either in print or electronically). Additionally, they should also have a copy of the Background on Yellowstone National Park and Lake Superior, as this will help students answer most of the activity questions.
  • Briefly discussing igneous activity, especially volcanic (extrusive) and plutonic (intrusive) igneous rock formation processes, before the in-class activity might be useful for clarifying terms.
  • The last question on the in-class activity (comparison with Lake Superior and the one-minute position paper) can be omitted, depending on the specific course, especially if this activity is being used as a stand-alone activity for understanding how igneous and metamorphic processes form mineral deposits, and not necessarily as part of the entire module.
  • Even though this activity follows Unit 4 in the module, it also works well directly after Unit 3 to reinforce the Unit 3 mining and mining impacts concepts. The instructor has flexibility in when and how to use this unit to maximize student learning.

Assessment

Student answers to activity 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:

  • Explain how mineral resources are concentrated by hydrothermal activity and how this links to intrusions, volcanism, and plate tectonics: Throughout activity.
  • Identify the potential environmental impacts of sulfide mining and associated activities: Activity Questions 5 and 6.
  • Identify stakeholders, and weigh their diverse views in determining if, how, and where to mine: Activity Question 6.
  • Practice geoscientific habits of mind by identifying geologic features and infer spatial distribution patterns on a geologic map for mineral exploration: Activity Questions 1--4.

Possible Exam Questions

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References and Resources

Humphries, Marc. August 1996. New World Gold Mine and Yellowstone National Park. CRS Report for Congress. http://www.nps.gov/whsa/parknews/upload/CRS%20Report%20on%20Yellowstone%20Gold%20Mine%20Issue-2.pdf.

LaBerge, Gene L. 1994.Geology of the Lake Superior Region. Penokean Press.

Lake Superior Binational Forum http://www.superiorforum.org/.

"Mining and Exploration Activity in the Region of the 1836, 1837, 1842, and 1854 Ceded Territories." http://www.lic.wisc.edu/glifwc/web/mining/.

Minnesota Sea Grant. http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/superior/characteristics.

Morgan, Lisa E., ed. 2007. "Integrated Geoscience Studies in the Greater Yellowstone Area—Volcanic, Tectonic, and Hydrothermal Processes in the Yellowstone Geoecosystem." USGS Professional Paper 1717. http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1717/.

"Multidisciplinary Studies to Image and Characterize the Mineral Resource Potential of the Midcontinent Rift, USA." USGS Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center. http://crustal.usgs.gov/projects/midcontinent-rift-minerals/index.html.

"Potential for New Nickel-Copper Sulfide Deposits in the Lake Superior Region." USGS. http://pubs.usgs.gov/info/mwni_cu/.

"Responsible Mining Recommendations from the Lake Superior Binational Forum." December 2013. http://www.superiorforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Responsible-Mining-Binational-Forum-2013.pdf.

"Tracking Changes in Yellowstone's Restless Volcanic System." 2004. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 100-03. http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs100-03/.

Van Gosen, Bradley S. 2007. "The Life Cycle of Gold Deposits Near the Northeast Corner of Yellowstone National Park—Geology, Mining History, and Fate." Chapter M of USGS Professional Paper 1717 http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1717/downloads/pdf/p1717M.pdf.

Yellowstone's Photo Collection. National Park Service.

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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 »