A TEACHING ACTIVITY ON THE USE OF MODELING, UNCERTAINTY AND PREDICTION IN MINERAL EXPLORATION
The forecast for the resource industries is promising as humanity progresses through Kardashev’s 4 types of advanced civilizations as defined by the way these futuristic societies collectively harness its energy resources. Unfortunately, the industry bust in the late nineties resulted in the closure of many economic geology departments that led to the severe lack of exploration skills among new graduates. As an industry-minted educator, I introduce these skills to my students hoping that they will appreciate the field of resource exploration.
I have developed lab exercises that relate to the role of modeling, uncertainty and prediction in mineral exploration. These lessons are cheap hands-on activities that can be differentiated across grade levels. Early on, modeling is explored through the Cube and Toilet Paper Roll Puzzle Lab while the physical meaning of uncertainty is shown in Penny Lab. However, the Shoebox Drilling Lab serves as the culminating activity that goes all the way to prediction. Students are challenged to design a drilling program to predict the location and topology of a hidden object (mineral deposit) in a box. The decision on the location of the first holes is based on their analysis, synthesis and evaluation of surface “geo-related” data overlain on top of the box. Prior to drilling, students need to construct geologic sections that will “model” the shape of the hidden orebody. They then commence drilling using bamboo skewers and learn the role of drill spacing in decreasing uncertainty. The mineral separation lab is a follow-up that lets students design an experiment that mimics mineral processing and the challenges in recovery. These labs can be enhanced with economic analysis through incorporation of related costs. Lastly, a glimpse on the use of 3D mine modeling softwares is shown through internet videos. At the same time, I forewarn them about the dangers on the dependence to these visually attractive computer-generated products without field verification and fidelity to drillcore-based observations.