Cookie Mining Lab
The purpose of this simulation is to provide an introduction to the economics of mining and to become
somewhat familiar with the fundamental mining terms. This will be accomplished through purchasing a
given land area and any associated reclamation costs. In return, student miners should receive money
for the ore mined. As a business, economic interests are clearly part of a miner’s overall approach, with
additional interests possibly coming into play as well.
Mining is the process or business of removing minerals from the ground. We use mining to extract metal ores,
which are used in products, like silverware, aluminum cans, cars and other essentials. We also use mining to
extract coal, which is used to produce the energy in the form of electricity. We are extremely dependent on
mining, but it is extremely harmful to the environment. Minimizing the impact it has on the environment is not
Reclamation is typically used to describe chemical or physical manipulations carried out in severely degraded sites.
For example, surface mined coal operations, open pit mines, large scale construction sites. The Surface Mining
Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (USA) requires mining companies to restore most Surface Mined Land so that
it can be used for the same purposes as it was before it was mined. This is a form of ecological restoration
strategies, which attempt to restore the ecosystem that is damaged through chemical or physical means.
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) (P.L. 95-87, 91 Stat 445) is one of the most
comprehensive federal regulations on land use. Congress passed the SMCRA, which was signed by President Jimmy
Carter, to "assure that the coal supply essential to the Nation's energy requirements, and to its economic and
social well-being, is provided and to strike a balance between protection of the environment and agricultural
productivity and the Nation's need for coal as an essential source of energy." At the heart of the act is the
"reclamation" provisions requiring mine operators to put land back in place after concluding mining operations.
Coal mining, particularly when using "surface" or "strip" mining techniques, has a significant detrimental impact on
the land and environment, including water and soil pollution and erosion. Prior to 1977 individual state regulation
had proved to be ineffective because state laws were underenforced. Congress believed that federal legislation
was necessary to establish minimum nationwide standards, ensuring that competition among coal producers
would not be used to induce states to lower environmental standards or fail to enforce existing laws. Before
enacting the SMCRA, however, the legislature debated the issue for seven years, raising concerns over how well a
uniform standard could be applied to varied regions.
The SMCRA required 4 basic things:
1. It required potential miners to submit a permit and detailed application before commencing surface coal
2. It required coal companies to post a bond to ensure that the costs of reclamation would be covered.
3. Miners would have to satisfy highly detailed standards for reclamation.
4. The act delegated regulatory enforcement to the secretary of the interior and individual state regulatory
In general, the act required mining companies to restore to the mined land its approximate contour and use
capacity, to stabilize the soil and redistribute the topsoil, and to restore plant life to the site.
This study seeks to answer how mining developers can minimize ecological damage, while sustaining economic or
Materials and Procedure:
Miners will select and purchase mining tools for $2.00. They will calculate the cost of the tools of the
equipment they purchased. Then wait.
When Ms. Hobson gives them the “go” they will mine as quickly as possible to get as many large pieces
of “nuggets” of ore out of the land (cookie). Miners my NOT use their hands. They can ONLY use the
tools they have purchased. Only their tools should come in contact with the cookie.
The miners will calculate the total nuggets and money that they would gain from selling the cookie
nuggets before doing any reclamation (ecological clean up). These are not their net gain, just their
predicted profit before ecologically cleaning up.
Miners then have to perform reclamation, ecological restoration of the area using physical retrieval
methods. Again, miners can only use the tools they have purchased to move the debris (cookie crumbs)
back into the circle. Wait until Ms. Hobson says “go”, and then miners will have to push the damage
back onto their property (the circle).
Miners will then calculate the costs of reclamation, and subtract that from their profits.
1. Land (cookie) purchase:
a. Cost of additional land= $0.10 per square; (may be more or less than mining
area(cookie) circle in the middle. In other words, this might be 0 for you.)
What is your total cookie/mining land Squares outside circle =____ x
2. Each miner must buy at least one mining tool, done so on credit from the Hobson’s loan bank, a
subsidiary of the Farmer’s Bank of Iowa (which did not accept government bailout $ to date).
a. Cost of flat toothpick tool= $2.00
b. Cost of Round toothpick = $4.00
c. Cost of paperclip tool = $2.00
What is the cost of your equipment?
3. Mining costs (excluding Reclamation) = $1.00 per minute
What is the number of minutes that you =______
What are your total costs of mining? =______x 1.00=_______
4. Ore: Sale of mined ore (chips raisins, walnuts, etc)
a. Price paid by customers for #2 pencil eraser sized nuggets of ore =$2.00
What is the number of #2 sized pencil =______
What is the total value of all your mined ____________x $2.00 = ___________
5. Reclamation costs and area of the land to be mined (cookie): You need to clean up after the
ecological mess you made! Calculate the cost of reclamation (clean up). Do not begin clean up
until Ms. Hobson says “go”.
a. Cost of reclamation on land=$1.00 per square over/outside the original cookie/land
b. Cost of reclamation cost of reclamation in the river= $2.00 per square touching the river.
c. Cost of time/labor for reclamation =$1.00 for every 15 seconds for time used to
physically move mining refuse and debris (cookie crumbles) back into your original
cookie mine perimeter (the circle).
What number of squares outside your =____
owned land (the circle) did you impact
that are not on the river?
What is the cost of the land damage not ____x $1.00 = _______
by the river?
What is the number of squares outside =_____
your owned land (the circle) did you
impact that are touching or in the river?
What is the cost of the land damage by ____x $2.00 =___________
What is the total cost of reclamation? ____ + _____ = _______
1. Calculate your net gain/profits from your data collected above.
a. Add the costs (additional land, equipment and total reclamation)
b. Subtract the costs from your profit before reclamation.
2. Analyze your data.
a. If the cost of reclamation (or ecological restoration) increases, what happens to net
gains or profits?
b. Were you able to “restore” the land?
Answer the following questions in paragraph form.
1. Were the minerals evenly distributed throughout the land (cookie)? Is this true in reality?
2. Legislation, like the NEPA and SMCRA require miners to plan for reclamation. Do you agree or
disagree with this? Why?
3. Costs of mining can be quite expensive, how do you think this effects the consumer who
purchases minerals, like gold, silver, diamonds, coal (electricity) down the line? Why?
4. How do we use the minerals (such as coal and metals) everyday? How could we reduce our
dependence on mining?
5. Is mining a sustainable practice? (think carefully before answering)