An Inexpensive Way of Teaching Uncertainty and Mineral Exploration Drilling in the Classroom

Monday, 15 December 2014
Joel Somera Aquino, Organization Not Listed, Washington, DC, United States
This presentation is all about inexpensive ways of teaching uncertainty and mineral exploration drilling in the classroom. These labs were developed as an off-shoot of my years of mineral industry experience before I transitioned to geoscience education. I have developed several classroom lab exercises that relate to the role of modeling, uncertainty and prediction in mineral exploration. These lessons are mostly less expensive ($<5/group) hands-on activities that can be differentiated across grade levels. Early in the semester, modeling is explored through the cube and toilet paper roll puzzle lab. This is then immediately followed by the penny experiment that gives a physical meaning to the concept of uncertainty. However, it is the end-of-semester shoebox drilling lab that serves as the culminating activity for modeling, uncertainty and prediction. An object (orebody) is hidden inside a shoebox and the students are challenged to design a drilling program to predict the location and topology of a “mineral deposit”. The students’ decision on the location of the first few drill holes will be based on how they analyze, synthesize and evaluate simple surface topographic, geologic and geochemical +/- geophysical data overlain on top of the box. Before drilling, students are required to construct several geologic sections that will “model” the shape of the hidden orebody. Using bamboo skewers as their drilling equipment, students then commence their drilling and along the way learn the importance of drill spacing in decreasing uncertainty or increasing confidence. Lastly, the mineral separation lab gives them an opportunity to design another experiment that mimics mineral processing and learns a valuable lesson on the difficulties in recovery and how it relates to entropy (no such thing as 100% recoverability). The last two labs can be further enhanced with economic analysis through incorporation of drilling and processing costs. Students further appreciate the world of of mineral exploration with several YouTube videos on the use of 3D and 4D GIS mine modeling softwares. However at the same time, I forewarn them about the dangers on the dependence to these visually attractive computer-generated products without field verification or the fidelity to the ground-based and drillcore-based observations.