In the Trenches - April 2019

Appreciating and Teaching Economic Geology

Volume 9, Number 2

In This Issue

Online Supplements

This site provides web links that supplement the print articles as well as news and web resources. Members can follow the "Read more" links below to access full versions of the articles online. To receive the full edition of In the Trenches, join NAGT

Appreciating and Teaching Economic Geology

Antonio Arribas, Akita University, Akita, Japan

What would happen if all geoscientists stopped practicing their science? Would the average person's life change?" This rhetorical question was asked by Dorfler and Friedrich in a brief article on the "Future of Geoscience" in the January 2019 issue of GSA Today. As expected, the authors identify immediate negative impacts to society on matters such as prevention of natural hazards, availability of clean drinking water, or awareness and understanding of lead contamination. However, it is telling that, as the first casualty of the disappearance of geoscientists, they chose the discovery of new resources such as "the rare earth minerals that power our smart phones." Indeed, without economic geologists (i.e., the scientists and professionals dedicated to the study of and the exploration for mineral resources), modern society could not exist. Read more...

Pebble, Alaska: Teaching Economic Geology and Its Broader Context Through a Case Study of a Controversial Mining Project

Elizabeth Holley, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

Economic geology is a fundamentally interdisciplinary field. The study of ore deposits involves not only the characterization of ore and its processes of formation, but also related fields such as geochemistry, hydrology, and environmental geology. In addition, economic geologists engage with engineers and other technical professionals, as well as communities, because ore deposits are mined in increasingly complex technical, environmental, and social contexts. This article presents a case study-based teaching unit used to deliver content in economic geology, environmental geochemistry, hydrology, engineering geology, and public policy to third- and fourth-year undergraduates in geology and mining engineering at Colorado School of Mines. The unit uses the Pebble mineral deposit in Alaska as the focal point to engage students with data that help scientists, engineers, and policymakers decide whether and how an ore deposit should be mined. Read more...

Teaching about Mineral Consumption and the Environmental Considerations that Accompany

Adam C. Simon and Stephen E. Kesler, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

The topic of mineral resources is almost always polarizing. High school and college students bring their own ideas about "mining" to the classroom and rarely think about how their own lives are made possible by mineral resources. Students are even less aware of the orders of magnitude difference between their level of resource consumption compared with the consumption of the vast majority of citizens around the world. Though evaluation of mineral resources is almost always done on a global scale, it is important that students appreciate their own levels of use while gaining insight into the resources necessary to lift up the developing world and how resource consumption will increase with an increasing global population. Read more...
  • The United States Geological Survey (USGS) tracks the production and consumption of all mineral resources and compiles these data in annual summaries available for free from their Mineral Information home page at:

Michigan Sustainability Cases: An Open-Access Resource for Infusing Sustainability into Geoscience Curricula

Meghan Wagner and Rebecca Hardin, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Case studies have a long track record of producing positive learning outcomes in fields such as business, law, and medicine; however, they have yet to find widespread use in environmental science fields. That may change as a handful of organizations and initiatives, recognizing their value for environment and sustainability education, actively champion their adoption (Wei et al., 2018). One of these, Michigan Sustainability Cases (MSC), is an initiative housed in the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) at the University of Michigan, where some of our school's faculty have taught with cases for more than 30 years. For a professional school such as SEAS, case-based education has considerable relevance because students come to learn both practical skills and how to confidently engage with complex sustainability problems. Our initiative launched in 2016 with funding from the university's Transforming Learning for a Third Century Initiative and a mandate to make teaching and learning more inclusive and widely relevant across classrooms, fields, and sectors of society where rapid transitions to sustainable technologies and practices are required. Read more...

ONLINE EXTRA: ONLINE EXTRA: A. Arribas Supplemental Articles and Information

Arribas_supplemental material for print Appreciating article.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 12kB Apr15 19)

Arribas_A Little History_final.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 14kB Apr15 19)

Price_The_Varied_Roles_of_Geoscientists_in_Mining_final.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 190kB Apr15 19)

ONLINE EXTRA: E. Holley Supplemental Articles and Information

ONLINE EXTRA: A. Simon Supplemental Articles and Information

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