Earth Science Week

MEC Mining & Money Timeline

  • 1785

    Silver Standard

    The U.S. adopts the Silver Standard.

  • 1792

    Coinage Act

    The Coinage Act creates the first Mint in the U.S. Capital, Philadelphia.

  • early 1800s

    Mining Practices

    U.S. Settlers in North Carolina and Georgia pan for gold in streams and dig just below the surface.

  • Later Mining Practices

    Later in the 1800s, technology improves and the first hard rock mine is opened in North Carolina to mine gold from its source.

  • Fineness Requirements

    Silver and copper are added to smelted gold to meet fineness requirements. These alloys allow monetary coin value to be standardized.

  • Mining Practices

    Improvements in mineral processing technology make the process more efficient. An example is water-powered stamp mills, used to break up gold ore for further processing.

  • To Philadelphia

    Before 1835, transporting gold from the south to Philadelphia for minting is a difficult and dangerous journey.

  • 1835

    Mint Act

    The Mint Act establishes branches of the U.S. Mint in Charlotte, NC; Dahlonega, GA; and new Orleans, LA to process gold mined in the south, eliminating the need to make the dangerous journey to Philadelphia.

  • 1849

    CA Gold Rush

    300,000 early U.S. settlers cross the country and immigrants from around the globe move to California in hopes of striking it rich.

  • 1850s

    Mother Lode

    The California Mother Lode is discovered.

  • 1854

    San Francisco Mint

    The San Francisco Mint is created to turn CA Gold Rush ore into coins.

  • 1858

    CO Gold Discovery

    Gold is discovered in Colorado.

  • 1859

    Comstock Lode

    Comstock Lode discovery of silver near Carson City, NV.

  • 1862

    Denver Mint

    The Denver Mint is opened to process ore from the CO Gold Rush.

  • 1863

    Carson City Mint

    Carson City, NV Mint is created to coin silver from Comstock Lode.

  • Mining Practices

    Cradles and long toms are used by individuals to process gold ore.

  • Mining Practices

    Technology improves and corporations start to use hydraulic mining and dredging to increase production.

  • 1873

    Gold Standard

    In the Coinage Act of 1873, the U.S. embraced the gold standard and de-monetized silver.

  • Mining Practices

    96% extraction rate of gold ore is achieved by advancements in metallurgical techniques, such as cyanidation.

  • 1940

    World War 2

    The War Production Board closes gold mines during WWII.

  • 1964

    Silver & Copper Clad Coins

    Silver and copper-clad coins decrease use of silver in US coins.

  • 1971

    Deregulation of Gold

    The U.S. government deregulates the price of gold, causing an increase in demand.

  • 1986

    Importing Gold

    Before 1986 gold is primarily mined domestically in the U.S. or is obtained from secondary sources (scrap). The U.S. increases importation of gold after 1986.

  • 2015

    Space Mining

    The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 allows Americans to keep what they mine on an asteroid or Earth's moon.

  • March 2015

    Planetary Resources

    The company Planetary Resources successfully launched test satellite A3R, bringing the company a step closer to mining minerals on asteroids, including gold.

  • 2016

    Ocean Mining

    The world's oceans are estimated to hold up to 15,000 tonnes of gold.

logosEach year, MEC partners with the American Geosciences Institute’s Earth Science Week (ESW) to provide educational resources across the globe at and in the ESW Toolkit. Participation in this initiative affords MEC the opportunity to reach a vast number of educators with education resources and to provide outreach materials to SME members and others interested in sharing the importance of mining and minerals to everyday life.


The 22nd annual Earth Science Week celebration (October 13-19, 2019) will emphasize both the inclusive potential and the importance of the geosciences in the lives of all people.  Copies of the 2019 Earth Science Week Toolkit are free, and available for the cost of shipping and handling in the U.S.  To order your ESW Toolkits, please visit  This two-sided postcard in the Tookit gives teachers the link to visit this page for MEC’s new activities.

In collaboration with the Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association (OAIMA) and the Ohio Mining and Mineral Education Program (OMMEP),  MEC produced a lesson/game that lets students guess whether things they use every day were grown or mined.  MEC also contributed the Rocks Ahoy! activity to the 2019-2020 Earth Science Week Calendar found in the Toolkit.

GROWN OR MINED:  What’s under the Rock? GAME

Play a game with Roxie the Mining Dog!  Can you guess whether some of the things you use every day are made from materials that were grown or mined?  Toothpaste?  Bicycles?  It’s not that easy!  Play “What’s Under the Rock” with Roxie and find out the important roles that minerals and mining play in the things you use every day.

Download the game/activity as a PowerPoint (11 MB) here.

Search national and state educational standards information for this activity.

Find more activities about our natural resources here.

Rocks Ahoy! ACTIVITY

Students will learn about three types of igneous rocks—scoria, obsidian and pumice—and test them through heft and then test whether they will sink or float.  Students will discuss how the commercial use of these rocks may vary based on the characteristics observed, especially density. This earth science and physical science lesson is aligned with state and national education standards.

Download the activity:

Search national and state educational standards information for this activity.

Find more activities about geology and the rock cycle here.

Find more activities about properties of minerals here.


The 21st annual Earth Science Week celebration (October 14-20, 2018) will emphasize artistic expression as a unique, powerful opportunity for geoscience education and understanding in the 21st century.  Copies of the “Earth as Inspiration” Earth Science Week Toolkit are free, and available for the cost of shipping and handling in the U.S.  To order your Toolkits, please visit

In collaboration with the Ohio Industrial Minerals & Aggregates Association and Ohio Aglime Council,  MEC produced the “From Quarry To Crop” set of resources.  The set includes a postcard and a calendar page in the Earth Science Week Toolkit, plus the activity and videos below.  These resources let students experience one of the ways our food requires both farming and mining.

From Quarry To Crop:  Growing More with AgLime Activity

Students will create different types of soil conditions, plant seeds and observe growth under each condition to assess the importance of pH to crop growth.

From Quarry To Crop:  Growing More with AgLime Activity Step-by-Step Video

This step-by-step video demonstrates the “From Quarry To Crop: Growing More With Aglime” hands-on activity above.

Aglime Video

Aglime is natural, finely crushed limestone and dolomite rock. Aglime reduces the acidity of the soil, decreases the amount of fertilizer and herbicide needed, and improves water drainage and the growth of beneficial microorganisms.


Example:  Put “quarry,” “crop” or “aglime” in the Content Search “Search Term” box and check “include summary in search” to get information about these activities.  Then you can choose from your state standards, or national standards such as Common Core or Next Generation Science Standards.


Determining Mineral Reserves Activity

This activity explores the physical testing, calculations and scientific methods commonly used to determine the quantity of mineral reserves.


2017 Theme: “Earth and Human Activity”

The 20th annual Earth Science Week celebration (October 8-14, 2017) will promote awareness of what geoscience tells us about human interaction with the planet’s natural systems and processes.  Copies of the “Earth and Human Activity” Earth Science Week Toolkit are free, and available for the cost of shipping and handling in the U.S.  To order your Toolkits, please visit

MEC’s new “What’s In My Toothpaste?” game, with glossy game board, is part of the AGI Earth Science Week Toolkit, along with the “A Paste With A Taste” calendar activity adapted with permission from Women in Mining.  Click the image of the game board to download a sample PDF of the “What’s in My Toothpaste?” Game.


2016 Theme: “Our Shared Geoheritage”

Explore how mining has contributed to “Our Shared Geoheritage” with examples of how exploration for natural resources has shaped our world through these MEC resources:

The colorful MEC Mining and Money Catcher is a fun, interactive that students can fold and play with as they learn about the interrelated history of mining and the money we use every day.

The MEC page from the 2017 AGI Earth Science Week Calendar is a Density Activity adapted with permission from the Nevada Mining Association.  The greater density of gold allows it to be separated from sediment in gold panning.

The rolling, responsive MEC Mining and Money Timeline above illustrates mining and money milestones from 1785 through the present, including the interrelated locations of the United States Mint.


2015 Theme: “Visualizing Earth’s Systems”

Three MEC bookmarks show the three processes in mining through the eyes of an exploration geologist (Exploration), mining engineer (Mining), and environmental engineer (Reclamation). Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM subjects) are used by mining professionals throughout the industry.

Purchase bookmark sets in individual sleeves here.

Reclamation/Environmental Engineer

Mining/Mining Engineer

Exploration/Exploration Geologist


The MEC page from the 2016 AGI Earth Science Week Calendar is Reclaiming a Mine Site with permission from Caterpillar. The activity instructs students how to create a model reclaimed landscape in a plastic tub. As the students observe the growth of vegetation on one of eight model landscapes, they learn that specific conditions are needed to re-vegetate reclaimed mine sites. To view the Caterpillar Ground Rules video and access the accompanying 75-activity guide go here.

AGI_1516Calendar_061015_Page_16 caterpillar

MEC recorded interviews with scientists and engineers in the mining industry to reinforce the messages presented to educators in MEC’s Earth Science Week bookmarks and calendar activity: how interest in STEM subjects can lead to a rewarding career in the mining industry. These interviews are available here.


2014 Theme: “Earth’s Interconnected Systems”

The colorful MEC Aggregates Poster has four 8 1/2 x 11 size K-12 lessons on the reverse side.  Sand, gravel and crushed stone are the most mined materials in the world.  Purchase the poster here.

Aggregates_Poster_v4_HQ - Copy_Page_1 Aggregates_Poster_v4_HQ - Copy_Page_2

The MEC page from the 2015 AGI Earth Science Week Calendar is Aggregates Matter.  Students compare concrete mixes containing different amounts and types of aggregates and test the strength of the hardened mixes.

2013 Theme: “Mapping Our World”

MEC provided a fold-out of the Soccer Minerals Mini-lesson for 2013 AGI Earth Science Week Tookit.

The MEC page from the 2014 AGI Earth Science Week Calendar is Mineral Electrical Conductivity.   Students test the conductivity of various minerals with a simple electrical circuit and draw conclusions about which ones would be used in electronics.