AP Environmental Science : Mining

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Environmental Science

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Mining

When discussing mining and mineral extraction, which of the following best defines "reserves"?

Possible Answers:

The processed weight of the mineral resource recovered over the lifespan of the mine

The finished product, refined from extracted ore and available for purchase in the consumer market

An unreliable figure, often inflated by governments of countries with resource-based economies to inflate prices and attract investors

The predicted total quantity of a mineral resource that exists in a mine or excavation site

The determined quantities of a mineral resource that can be economically recovered

Correct answer:

The determined quantities of a mineral resource that can be economically recovered

Explanation:

"Reserves," by definition, refers to the determined quantity of a mineral resource that is economically feasible to recover. Mineral deposits consist of mineral-rich ores that are easy to extract, but there are also poorer-quality ores that are more difficult to extract that are often left behind since they are not profitable to extract.

Example Question #32 : Material Resources

Which of the following terms best define the traditional method of "panning" for gold, popular amongst Western settlers during the California Gold Rush?

Possible Answers:

Subsurface mining

Strip mining

Placer mining

Open-pit mining

Fracture mining

Correct answer:

Placer mining

Explanation:

Placer mining is when metals and minerals are extracted from river sediments, which describes the "panning" method employed by Western settlers.

Example Question #33 : Material Resources

 

A mining company that has leased Bureau of Land Management property for mining in Northern Nevada has discovered a significant copper ore deposit on the land. The deposit lies on relatively flat geography and is projected to be rather shallow at less than 10 meters deep. Which of the following would be the most appropriate extraction method?

Possible Answers:

Contour mining

Mountaintop removal

Open pit mining

Subsurface mining

Strip mining

Correct answer:

Strip mining

Explanation:

Strip mining involves removing shallow strips of dirt and rock to expose valuable ores. Since the deposit is relatively shallow in the earth and the land is relatively flat, strip mining would be the most appropriate method.

Contour mining resembles terraces for farming on a slope, and is indeed only practical on a sloped topography. Mountaintop removal is an equally moot point, seeing that the deposit is on flat land where there are no mountains. Subsurface mining would be appropriate if the deposits were only found deep underground.

Example Question #34 : Material Resources

What was the purpose of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977? 

Possible Answers:

To restore previously mined land to its former condition 

To regulate the methods of mining in use at the time

To make mining on public land accessible to any individual

To ban mining in places where it did not already exist

Correct answer:

To restore previously mined land to its former condition 

Explanation:

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 was meant to restore previously damaged land to its former state. The key word is reclamation, which is an effort of society to reverse harmful actions taken on the environment and return it to its former state. The act accomplished this by setting operating standards and requiring companies to obtain permits to mine. 

Example Question #2 : Mining

 

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) mandates that companies applying for a permit to mine legally must ensure that their operation will meet SMCRA environmental and performance standards. 

Company A wants to mine for copper on a 20,000 acre land parcel with shallow iron ore deposits on hill-dominated terrain. The company has submitted a permit application, claiming they will employ contour mining, construct a water-tight tailings pond and a board of company shareholders will vote on a use and reclamation method for the land after said mining operation is complete. 

Would Company A get approved permitting under SMCRA? Why or why not?

Possible Answers:

Yes, because they have satisfied the SMCRA requirements by planning for responsible mining, pollution control and environmental reclamation. 

No, because there is not an established reclamation plan for when the mine is defunct. A written and set plan for environmental reclamation must be included with the permit application before a mine can legally operate. 

Yes, because SMCRA does not address restoring the land after mining. The legislation simply exists to to prevent leaching of toxic chemicals used in surface mining, but there are no clauses to ensure environmental restoration. 

No, because tailing ponds have been declared an environmental hazard. Even when designed to prevent leaching, there is always a significant risk of toxic chemicals entering the ecosystem. 

No, because contour mining puts land at an unacceptably high risk of soil erosion. 

Correct answer:

No, because there is not an established reclamation plan for when the mine is defunct. A written and set plan for environmental reclamation must be included with the permit application before a mine can legally operate. 

Explanation:

Permitting under SMCRA requires that mines meet performance and environmental standards as well as provide a detailed excavation plan and a plan for environmental restoration after ceasing operations. Providing an undecided solution that will be voted on later is not a valid environmental reclamation plan, and the firm's application would likely be denied. 

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