Simulating Mineral Industry Drilling and Processing Lab

Joel S. Aquino, PhD, University of North Georgia (formerly Gainesville State College)
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This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.

Initial Publication Date: February 18, 2013


In this lab activity, students simulate two processes applied by the mineral industry - drilling and mineral processing. In the drilling activity, students create a 3D model of a hidden object inside a shoebox by using bamboo skewers as their drilling machines. The location of the first few holes will depend on the students interpretation of their geological, geochemical and +/- geophysical cross-sections. These sections will depend on the overlain maps on each shoebox. The second activity on mineral processing challenges the students to design and implement a flowchart on how to separate the individual components of a water-oil laden mineral mixture.

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Learning Goals

These activities emphasize the process of scientific investigation and require a written report that focuses on the 6 levels of Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning and improving their writing skills. The lower levels of knowledge, comprehension and application are used as a rubric for discussion of objectives, summary of literature review, methodology and data processing/ presentation (table, graphs, photos/ sketches). Meanwhile, the higher levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are used in the sections of analysis/conclusion (pattern recognition, cross-correlation and implications with underlying geologic process and literature readings), evaluation of weaknesses and practical suggestions for improvement. Non-technical aspects of the lab report that are also assessed include group dynamics (inter-personal skills), punctuality and manipulative skills (use of instruments and lab safety procedures).

Sustainability is addressed during an after activity discussion where students are made aware that humanity is approaching a critical time where the discovery rate of new energy and mineral resources may no longer be able to meet the demands of human population and technology growths. Innovative engineering and sustainability are ways to slow down this exponential utilization and/or consumption of resources.

Context for Use

These activities are best suited for introductory physical geology students in a lab setting. Each activity lasts for 2 to 3 hours and students should have prior knowledge on mineral properties and geologic structures. Thus, it is best suited at the near end of the course on the topic of energy and mineral resources. The materials are cheap and easy to find and can be differentiated to an upper level course all the way to 9-12 HS Earth Systems.

Description and Teaching Materials

Shoebox Drilling Lab (Microsoft Word 440kB Feb19 13)
Mineral Separation Lab (Microsoft Word 764kB Feb19 13)

Teaching Notes and Tips


References and Resources