Below are a series of questions some of which include links to videos, readings, or other
supplemental sources of information. Review each of the questions and answer them below. For
questions requiring a written answer please use complete sentences. Some of these questions are openended and have multiple possible answers. In those cases, you need to present a clear rationale for your
answer. Show work for any calculations you might need to make. These can be done on paper and a
photo of the work uploaded as long as the work is legible.
In order to receive full credit for this assignment you must use the discussion board in at least
one of two ways. 1) Interact with your group members about the assignment or 2) ask a geologically
related question to me that is more than a simple yes, no, or other few words answer. You are
encouraged to use the discussion board to bounce ideas off your fellow classmates and discuss the
questions. Especially for those questions with open-ended value-based judgements use of the discussion
boards can make your answers better and more thought out.
You must answer all questions in this file and reupload the finished product under the “Assignments”
tab by 11:59PM on December 1st eastern standard time.
1) Coal mining has received a renewed amount of attention in the past decade drawing attention to the
economic hardship of the communities that have traditionally relied on this industry, particularly in
Appalachia. Much of the downsizing of coal employment can be traced to two sources, automation and
the availability of cheap natural gas due to fracking. Given the drawbacks of coal as a greenhouse gas
source, the high number of deaths and health issues for miners, and the environmental damages of strip
mining do you think it makes sense to try and revive the industry versus other fossil fuel sources? Read
the articles linked below for background.
Natural Gas Fracking
2) Under current law in the United States reclamation of mines requires the reclamation to being within
six months of mining completion. If the land is a site near human developments it must be filled to
conform to the surrounding landscape and priority is given to making the site suitable for development.
If the land was a natural area reclamation requires a return, as close as possible, to the natural state. This
includes making sure natural vegetation can grow and waterways are restored. For coal mining
operations there is an additional reclamation responsibility the Abandoned Land Mine Fund where the
companies have to pay a set amount per ton of coal produced which goes into a fund to pay for
reclamation of former mines which were abandoned without reclamation (the federal government
contributes additional money directly to the program as well, i.e. taxpayers are footing part of the bill).
Current reclamation rules (in the United States) do not consider carbon capture as a potential goal
despite the high carbon emissions from mining activity. However, the potential for carbon sequestration
of reclaimed sites exists. As a specific example the spreading of biosolids (i.e. concentrated solid waste =
manure) onto reclaimed mine tailing piles dramatically increased the carbon stored over a 13-year
period (see figure below) as well as dramatically increasing aboveground vegetation biomass. However,
the plants communities that thrive under such conditions might not be the same as the prior natural
Do you think that carbon sequestration should be an additional consideration to mine reclamation laws?
How should these be weighted relative to the other priorities of future human development and
restoration of natural environments?
3) As CO2 and other greenhouse gases continue to build up and heat the Earth the effects are being felt
directly by a greater and greater proportion of people. What is one way in which climate change has
impacted you or your family?
4) Recent glaciation events covered 25% of the Earth’s land and 8% of the planet overall, but much
earlier in Earth’s history there were periods where nearly the entire Earth’s surface would have been
covered in ice, known as Snowball Earth. Currently the earliest such event took place about 2.3 billion
years ago, known as the Huronian Glaciation. The Earth’s atmosphere prior to this time was dominated
by methane and lacked any oxygen. Two major events coincide with this first Snowball Earth. One,
organisms evolved oxygen-based photosynthesis which produces oxygen as a waste product (the
chemical reaction between methane and oxygen is shown below) and two, plate tectonics started to
become active with lots of rifting occurring to produce large deposits of basalt. Explain how the
combination of these two changes could explain a glaciation which covered most of the Earth.
CH4 + 2O2 ! 2H2O + CO2
Methane Carbon Dioxide