Lesson 13: Mineral Resources
This week we'll continue our study of Earth's resources with a look at mineral commodities and the environmental consequences of their exploitation (as at Butte, Montana, right). There is an old adage that, "If it isn't grown, it's mined," and that's pretty much true. As Keller points out, a great many of the items we
use every day are derived from minerals and future shortages of specific minerals
may have drastic effects on our lifestyles. Here in California there is a also historical aspect to this week's topic because, as you know, the state as a whole—and Siskiyou County in particular—were changed dramatically by the wave of settlement that accompanied the "Gold Rush" when people from around the world sought to claim a share of the state's mineral wealth. Gold mining is mostly an avocation in the county today, but you cannot travel to Yreka or the Scott Valley without seeing the stamp mills and dredger spoils that testify to the region's mining heritage.
In chapter 15 Keller describes how natural processes concentrate elements to produce mineral resources and explains how a specific deposit may be either a resource or a reserve depending on technology and economic conditions. He goes on to examine the environmental consequences of mining and related activities, and concludes with a brief look at how we can clean up mining wastes and the inevitability of recycling finite mineral resources in the future.
As you read through the introduction to mineral resources in our text and study the accompanying websites it will be helpful to take careful notes. Writing out key facts in your own words or making neatly labeled drawings will help you better understand the significance of what you've read and spot any gaps in your knowledge. Having complete notes will also make it easier for you to review for this week's quiz and and access what you've learned when you want to refer back to it for future assignments. Be sure that you are prepared to meet the learning objectives outlined below before you move on to the quiz at the bottom of the page. Finally, in lieu of a typical exercise this week we will be starting our second writing assignment. Your job will be to draft an abstract of the article you outlined two weeks ago. Even though abstracts are short, writing one that succinctly captures the key observations and conclusions of an article is a challenge, so be sure to take your time ask questions via the discussion board or private messages.
Weekly Learning Objectives
Upon successful completion of this week's lesson, a student is expected to be able to:
- Determine whether a mineral deposit is best described as a reserve or a resource based on information about its value and production cost.
- Identify which type of ore-forming process (igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic, biological, or weathering) is likely to have produced the common types of ore deposits, such as: (1) beds of borate minerals associated with dry lake deposits in eastern California; (2) beds of limestone formed as ancient coral reefs; (3) pods of chromite associated with ancient mid-ocean ridge magma reservoirs; (4) skarn formed in limestone adjacent to an igneous intrusion; or (5) an enriched copper deposit formed at or near the water table.
- Predict the likely environmental impacts of nearly a century of both lode and placer gold mining here in Siskiyou County. (Note that "back in the day" gold was extracted from crushed ore by amalgamation with mercury rather than heap-leaching with cyanide.)
- Calculate the time available to find a solution to the depletion of a nonrenewable resource assuming a fixed reserve and a known comsumption rate.
Reading and Browsing Assignment
- Read Chapter 15, focusing on the topics outlined in the learning objectives above.
- To learn more about mineral resources, both in the United States and around the world, check out the US Geological Survey's Mineral Resources Program site. You can search for up-to-date information on the production, use, and supply prospects for any mineral commodity. For example, by searching on "platinum" can you find out what percent of the United States' current consumption of this metal is imported and what its major use is?
- To learn how one of the largest mines in the United States operates, check out Kennecott Utah Copper's website on the Bingham Canyon Mine. Click on "Products", "Copper", and then "How We Produce Copper" to see how the ore is mined, milled, and refined.
- Although California's early history may be remembered for the Gold Rush, the evaporite mineral borax has also had a long and storied history in the state (Remember the "20 mule teams"?) To learn about the production of borax from one of the world's largest deposits near Boron, California check out "Vital Statistics" on the Rio Tinto Borax Company's website.
- Finally, the long history of mining in our area has left a number of sites severely contaminated. One of the worst is the Altoona Mine, located just west of Castle Crags in Trinity County. Mercury leaching from the mine's dumps has contaminated the Trinity River and Trinity Lake. During the summer and fall of 2008 the EPA has undertaken a cleanup of the Altoona Mine by burying the tailings.
Exercise 13: First Abstract (Due by 9:00 AM on 14-Nov-2011)
Once you recieve your outline back it will be time to prepare your first abstract. In the left-hand column of this page click on "Resources" and then scroll down to "Writing Assignments" and click on "Abstract of article".During week 10 you completed the first two steps of this assignment, and this week we'll be completing step three.
- Working from your outline, write an abstract of your article's major points following the format of the "sample abstract" linked to the writing page. For the purpose of this abstract, act as though you are the author of the article.
- In this assignment format is very important, and the easiest way to make sure your abstract is formatted correctly is to download the "abstract template" linked to the writing page. Print one copy for reference and then simply type over each part of the digital copy on your computer with the appropriate information relevant to your article (title, author information and citation, abstract body, etc.) That way each part of the abstract will be formatted correctly and positioned correctly on the page. (Note that this template is in Word format. If you are using another word processor check the link on the writing assignment page for abstract specifications such as column widths, margins, etc.)
- When you are done, save your abstract in a place (and with a name) that you'll remember. This is the file you'll send a copy of to me.
- The abstract template is a two column document, so if your text in the left-hand column is too long it will "push" the text in the right-hand column down. If this happens, shorten your abstract and remove any blank lines at the top of the right-hand column so that the first line of of text is flush with the title at the top of the left-hand column.
- Be sure to include your PIN ( last five digits of your Etudes user id) and the course name and date at the appropriate places in the right-hand column. Also, pick three keywords that someone searching for your abstract might be expected to use in a search engine. Proper names (e.g., Mount Shasta) and accepted phrases (e.g., global warming) are okay, but otherwise try to stick to single words. Be sure to only capitalize keywords that are proper names.
- Write your abstract in complete sentences and be sure that it is well-organized and coherent. It's a good idea to check out the abstract grading rubric that is also linked to the writing page so that you can see which criteria I will use for evaluation.
- Complete your abstract and send it to me as an attachment (preferably a Word document) to Exercise 13 in the Etudes "Assignments, Tasks, and Tests" tool by next Monday 14-Nov-2011. If you have any problems just let me know. The key thing is to get started early so that if you do run into a difficulty we'll have time to resolve it.
- I will score your abstract and return it to you with a copy of the grading rubric in about one week. Your abstract is worth twice as many points (20) as a typical weekly exercise, so take your time and work carefully as you write it.
Quiz 14: Mineral Resources (Due by 9:00 AM on 14-Nov-2011.)
After you feel you have met the learning outcomes outlined above, please complete Quiz 13 in the Etudes "Assignments, Tests, and Surveys" area. There are ten questions, each worth one point. If you can answer all of them correctly it means that you know your way around the basics of mineral resource issues pretty well and are ready to move on to a more detailed look at energy resources next week. Remember, answers will be available for review after 10:00 AM on the Tuesday after the quiz closes, so please look over the results of your quiz and contact me if you have any questions about either content or scoring.