Mineral Resource Discovery

The Mineral Resource Discovery is sponsored by the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources and the Department of Geosciences. This outreach program is designed to teach grade 5-12 students about the science and engineering behind copper mining, one of Arizona’s most important industries. This program integrates geology, engineering, chemistry, physics and environmental science to show the real-world application of science, engineering and math. Advances in these fields allow humans to extract mineral resources in increasingly cost-effective and environmentally friendly ways and future advances lie with the generations of innovators to come! The workshop is facilitated by undergraduate students at the U of A. 

Program goals: 

  • Show students how science, technology and engineering concepts are used in a real world setting and in applications that affect our lives. 
  • Introduce students to some of the stages in the life cycle of a mine and create awareness of the variety of technical/scientific jobs needed in the mineral industry. 

Workshop Stations:

  • Formation of porphyry copper: Students learn about magmatic-hydrothermal systems that form copper deposits in the earth. Simple experiments show how changes in pressure and temperature create the perfect storm of conditions for a copper deposit. 
  • Mineral Exploration: A layered sandbox provides students with the opportunity to undertake a geophysical survey and drill (with a straw) beneath the surface to find a mineral deposit. Students record their findings by logging core and marking a map. 
  • Mine Planning: Students are given the opportunity to tinker with the big data software that provides mining engineers with all the details needed to design the mine before permits are obtained. Simple math problems are given to demonstrate the cost and savings of seemingly small changes on the mine.
  • Mineral Processing: Turning rock into copper metal takes a few steps and a lot of chemistry. Students undertake hands-on experiments in leaching, electroplating and froth flotation. 
  • Environmental Effects of Mining: Students are introduced to environmental hazards around a mine including acid mine drainage, dust and heavy metals. A sandbox/water table is used to show how rain and erosion can increase risks and solutions for monitoring and mitigating hazards are discussed. 

Program Details

Audience:5th - 12th grade

Group Size:10 - 30 students

Offered:Fall Semester, Tuesday & Thursdays

Start Time:9:15am

Duration:2 hours


  • Students: $5.00 each
  • Teachers: Free
  • Chaperones: Up to 5 free chaperones; Additional chaperones $5.00 each
  • Limited Free field trips available to Title I Schools

We welcome homeschool groups! 1 lead parent/teacher and 5 chaperones per group is free. Additional adults will be charged for admission beyond the 5 for the workshop. Please Note: Due to room capacity in the Discovery Labs, your chaperones will be limited to only 5 in the room at a time.

Optional Add-Ons

Science Center Exhibits:
$2.00 per person

Planetarium Show:
$3.00 per person


For more information about scheduling programs, please contact:
Noel Hensley


To request a Mineral Resource Discovery Workshop, please fill out the request form

Mineral Discovery Workshop Request Form

All Discovery Programs require a Request Form Submission; Please note that this is a request form only. Confirmation of your Discovery Workshop request is dependent on availability. Due to the high volume of discovery requests, it can take up to 2 weeks to confirm your Discovery Workshop.