Resource Extraction Lab Activity

Resource Extraction Lab Activity

Free Earth and Space Science Worksheets

Resource Extraction Simulation

Mining is a process of extracting natural resources from the Earth’s crust. Modern mining consists of utilizing machinery to dig for resources which are identified by geologists and geophysicists. Engineers, contractors, governments, and companies then determine the best strategies for extracting these resources. Mining operations often consist of extraction, storage, and transportation of the raw resources. These resources are then shipped to other industries for processing or use.

However, as time passes by, mining industry is having difficulty extracting minerals and metal ores, despite the advancement in technology. What could be the reason behind this difficulty? This laboratory activity simulates the extraction of nonrenewable resources from a mine using a simple bean (mineral/resource) and sand (mine) mixture. Students are the “miners” who will extract beans from the sand in time increments, and see that extraction is gradually more difficult as time passes.

Resource Extraction Learning Objectives:

At the end of this laboratory activity, students are expected to:

  • Simulate mining as one method of resource extraction.
  • Explain why nonrenewable resource extraction becomes more difficult over time.

Laboratory Proper:

Here are the Files Downloadable Files for the Resource Extraction Activity

Resource Extraction Lab Materials:

For each group of 4 students:

  • Plastic bin or disposable aluminum baking pan (approx. 8.5 in x 11 in x 4 in deep)
  • 1 liter (4 cups) of fine sand
  • 2 liter (3/4 cup) of dried white beans
  • 1 piece scrap paper (same size or larger than the bin/tray area)
  • 2 paper towels
  • Stopwatch

Resource Extraction Lab Activity Procedure:

  1. Read and understand the activity rules below.
    1. The object of this activity is to recover as many minerals/resources (beans) as possible each “work day” while keeping the sand in the mine.
    2. You must mine within a set “work day” and only mine between your signal to start and stop.
    3. To help you follow this rule, you will place a piece of scrap paper over your mines between work days. Since this is a simulation, you have to understand that miners need to sleep and spend time with their families outside of work too!
    4. You are only allowed to mine with a thumb and index finger on one hand, and you can only pick one resource (bean) at a time.
    5. Each group gets two paper towels. You retrieve minerals by extracting them from the “mine” and placing them in a pile on one paper towel. Then, count the number of beans on the paper towel, and record your data on the table under the Data and Results.
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    6. After recording the data, move the beans to the second paper towel, which is the discard pile. Once a resource is extracted from the mine, it cannot be returned to the mine and that the discard pile is for resources extracted during previous workdays.
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  2. Once you have read and understood the activity rules, get the bin with sand and beans from your teacher.
  3. Start the mining process with your group mates.
    1. For the first work day, have only one member from your group to mine.
    2. Once you start the stopwatch, the “work day” begins. The first member could start mining. Remember to follow the rules in mining (see 1-d)! After 30 seconds, tell the first miner to stop. Count and record the number of minerals (beans) he/she retrieved. Then, move these mined beans to a discard pile.
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    3. Remember, do not put the beans back in the mine.
    4. Repeat Step 3-b until each student in your group has mine individually.
    5. For the next work day, repeat Step 3-b, but let two students from each group mine. Record the total number of beans extracted from both miners during the work day.
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    6. Continue repeating Step 3-b and adding one miner per workday until the entire group is participating.
    7. Make sure to complete the 20 30-second workdays.
  4. Once you have completed your data, plot them into a line graph to see the trend of resource extracted over time.

Data and Results

A. Number of Recovered Resources (Beans) During Each Workday

resource extraction earth science activity

B. Line Graph of the Recovered Resources (Beans) for 20 Workdays

Resource Extraction Lab Activity Data Sheet

Discuss the following with your students:

  1. How hard was it to extract resources at first?
  1. How hard was it to extract the resources in the last time step?
  1. Describe the shape of your line graph.
  1. Based on your graph, what happens to the resource extraction over time?
  1. Why does non-renewable resource extraction become more challenging over time?

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