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 with a material to be included 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 message of the importance of mining and minerals to everyday life.


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. (PDF Download)

MEC_Catcher2 Final Art V2_Page_1

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

AGI_1617Calendar_061716 density_Page_16nevada

The rolling, responsive MEC Mining and Money Timeline 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”

In keeping with 2015’s theme, “Visualizing Earth 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.

(PDF Download) Purchase bookmark sets here.


The MEC page from the 2016 AGI Earth Science Week Calendar is a reclamation activity 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 revegetate reclaimed mine sites. To view the original video and access the accompanying 75-activity guide go here.

(PDF Download)

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 ESW 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 81/2 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.

(PDF Download)