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Extracting Sustainability: Exposing the Impacts from Mining to Supply the Electronics Industry
In this activity, students look at the environmental, social, cultural, and health impacts of the mineral extraction needed to produce electronic technology devices.


By: Robert Rattle (Crane Institute for Sustainability, Sault College)

Session type: Multiple sessions, Undergraduate level, Medium size


  • Mining (electronic devices)

  • Ecological footprint

  • Personal consumption


Introduction to the teaching example:

In this activity, students develop a critical viewpoint on lifestyle decisions and consumption habits by comprehending the impact of mining in the production of widely-used technological gadgets. 


Students investigate the minerals used in the production of a particular electronic equipment, such as a USB, joystick, mouse, or keyboard, in groups of three to five. Students concentrate their study on five minerals that are required to make that device's constituent parts. The students do research and interviews with professionals in the sector to learn about the sourcing and manufacturing processes in order to examine their gadgets. This procedure can even involve taking apart a gadget to see what materials are within.


The groups then develop a 30-minute presentation that describes the mining processes that go into the production of the item and produce a final report following the research and analysis phase. These last exercises ask students to consider how their own actions and the values of larger social and economic institutions have influenced the results regarding the effects of mining, in addition to the findings themselves.

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