Envi sci – Minerals and Mining Name:  Mineral Exploration and Mining Labs

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ENVI SCI – Minerals and Mining Name: 

Mineral Exploration and Mining Labs


In these real life lab application activities you and your group have been hired to mine valuable minerals from the land. These minerals need to be extracted with the least amount of impact on the environment and you will be fined if the environmental impact becomes too large from your extraction methods. You get rewarded for each mineral extracted from the environment and the winning mining team will win a prize at the end of the day.

Lab activity one: “Chocolate Chip Extraction”

You and your team need to figure out the best way to extract the minerals (chocolate chips) from the environment (cookie) with the least amount of environmental impact. You have access to only the following extraction tools: flat toothpick, sharp toothpick and a paper clip. You may ONLY use these three tools and no other if you use other tools you will be shut down and will lose your contract with the construction company.

With your group you need to develop a detail procedure with at least 6 steps on how you are going to extract the minerals from the environment. Be sure to tell what extraction tools you are going to use as well as how you will use them. Also include how you are going to minimize your impact on the environment. The foreman wants to get extracting as soon as possible so he has given you 10 minutes to write your procedure below.






Number of minerals (choc. Chips) extracted


Environmental impacts

Negative $500

Total money earned

Conclusion: Answer the following below how would you change your mining techniques to earn more money? Would you change your techniques if you were not fined for breaking the cookie? How does this relate to a real mine?

Lab activity Two: “Birdseed Mining”

Your team did such a great job at extracting the minerals from the last environment that you have been asked by the same group of investors to again harvest valuable minerals this time from a different environment. This environment contains multiple minerals some with more value than others. This time however you only have one extraction tool to use, chopsticks. The procedure is as follows.


  1. Assign job functions as noted below. Every person has a job --field geologist (looks for the ore); accountant (bookkeeper); miner (digger); process engineer (prepares ore for sale); environmental engineer (cleans up).  

  2. Collect your open pit. The pit contains the following bead and seed ores:

      • Gold beads = Gold

      • Silver beads = Silver

      • Blue beads = Coal

      • Sunflower seeds = Copper

      • All other seeds = Waste

      • White beads = Reclamation (The white beads represent incentives or rebates that will be deducted from the cost of Reclamation. In the mining world, these might represent the refund of a portion of a reclamation bond as a result of concurrent reclamation or a cost reduction for some type of environmental mitigation service performed by the company.

  3. The field geologist should search through the seed mixture and locate the "mine" beads, sunflower seeds and other grain products. The miner should separate the beads, sunflower seeds and other grain products making piles of each. CAUTION: DO NOT EAT THE BIRD SEED MIXTURE. You are allowed to mine for 10 minutes. This is to simulate the length of time a mine will be economically viable. (NOTE: You should mine NEATLY, not mixing waste seeds with their beads, sunflower seeds and not scattering seeds all over the area. The instructor may assign a "fine" of $500.00 to cover costs for "environmental damage" at the messy tables.)

  4. Each type of bead or seed has a value. 

      • Gold bead = Gold = $5.00 each

      • Silver bead = Silver = $4.00 each

      • Blue bead = Coal = $3.00 each

      • Sunflower seeds = Copper = $2.00 each

      • All other seeds = Waste = $0.00

      • White beads = Reclamation rebate = $10.00 each

  5. The process engineer should count the number of gold, silver, and blue beads, sunflower seeds from your piles and the accountant should multiply the number of each by their values given in #5. Document all information on the "Birdseed Mining Spreadsheet." You should also note the amount of any environmental damage fines on the spreadsheet. There is also a space on the spreadsheet for the cost of mined land reclamation. Also count the number of white beads in your pile and multiply by the reclamation factor. This number should be recorded on the reclamation cost line on the spreadsheet.

  6. Total the dollar value of your "mining" operation, subtracting the environmental damage fines and reclamation costs.

  7. The environmental engineer should clean up the activity and return the materials.

  8. All group members should complete the analysis questions.


______________________________ Mining Company

Birdseed Mining Spreadsheet

GOLD BEAD: Each gold bead = 10 oz. of gold ($5.00 each).

Number of beads ________ x 10 oz. = ________ x_________ = ________

price value

SILVER BEAD: Each silver bead = 10 oz. of silver ($4.00 each).

Number of beads ________ x 10 oz. = ________ x _________ = ________

price value

BLUE BEAD: Each blue bead = 1 ton of coal = ($3.00/ton).

Number of beads ________ x 1 ton = ________ x _________ = ________

price value

SUNFLOWER SEEDS: Each Sunflower seed = 100 lbs. of copper = ($2.00 each).

Number of Sunflower seeds ________ x 100 lbs. = ________ x _________ = ________

price value

TOTAL Product Value = _______________________

SUBTRACT cost of Environmental Damage fines = _______________________

SUBTOTAL = _______________________

SUBTRACT cost of Mined Land Reclamation = $300.80

SUBTOTAL AFTER Mined Land Reclamation = _______________________

Number of WHITE beads ________ x $100.00 = _______________________

ADD reclamation rebate to SUBTOTAL = _______________________

The GRAND TOTAL is the profit (+) or loss (-) made by your mining company.
Analysis Questions:

Complete the following questions using complete sentences.

  1. Discuss the problems that your company encountered.

  1. Were the ores evenly distributed throughout the mine? Do you think this has a real application?

  1. In what way was this activity a realistic model of mining? Give examples. In what way was this activity not realistic? Give examples.

  1. Describe 3 possible impacts on the environment of your mining site. Associated with each, describe a way to counteract the damage.

Connection between activities:

After completing both mining activities what extraction was harder for your team to accomplish? Why do you think this is the case? What do these activities represent in a real world application? Be specific. Explain at least one thing you learned from completing these two activities.

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