UCL Earth Sciences


GEOL0025 Earth Resources & Sustainability

This course explores the formation, exploitation and issues surrounding major types of Earth resources - metallic, non-metallic and energy - and whether sustainable, socially and environmentally responsible resource exploitation can be achieved.

Coordinator: Dr Katie McFall

Module details
TitleEarth Resources & Sustainability 
UG CodeGEOL0025
CoordinatorDr Katie McFall
Other ContributorsTBC
Credit15 credits
Written ExamNone
Coursework90% (3,000 word commodity report & practical assignments)
Oral Presentation10% (10 minutes)
Pre-RequisitesSome first and/or second year Geology modules (e.g. GEOL0006, GEOL0007, GEOL0011)
Maths & Stats Content and RequirementGeneral GCSE-level (or equivalent) knowledge of maths
Total Number of Hours of Student Work188 hours
Hours of Lectures/Seminars20 hours
Hours of Practicals/Problem Classes20 hours
Hours of TutorialsAs needed
Days of FieldworkNone

An important aspect of the course is that it will be jointly delivered both by academic and by industry personnel, and students will be introduced to the societal and financial drivers for resource identification.

Lecture topics

  • Introduction to ore forming processes.
  • Environmental, social and governance issues in mining.
  • Critical metals - finding specialist materials needed for green technology.
  • Alternative energy sources, carbon capture and the energy transition.
  • By-products, geometallurgy and sustainable mining.
  • Precious metals and the relationship between mining and financial markets.
  • Land use conflicts and mining.
  • Seafloor mining and mines of the future.

Practical laboratory topics

  • Ore rock and mineral identification.
  • Mineral exploration techniques.
  • Drill core logging for exploration and research.
  • Introduction to resource estimation.
  • Environmental, social and governance assessment and risk management in mining.


This module is assessed through a series of coursework assignments intended to give students practice in a variety of professional skills and writing styles. This includes a copper exploration group project and presentation, and a term-long commodity report on a commodity of the student's choice.


Introduction to Ore-Forming Processes by Laurence Robb, Blackwell Science, 2005.

Earth Resources and the Environment by Craig, Vaughan and Skinner, 4th Ed Pearson, 2011.


"If it cannot be grown it has to be mined" - Earth resources are essential for society, particularly for technologies needed to transition to a zero-carbon economy, but is it possible for resource extraction to be truly sustainable?

This course explores the formation, exploitation and issues surrounding major types of Earth resources - metallic, non-metallic, energy, water and soil. Students will learn how geological processes control the formation and distribution of Earth resources and how societal, technological and economic factors drive resource identification and consumption. Through a series of case studies and discussion topics students will explore the environmental and societal impact of resource extraction, and will be encouraged to reach their own conclusions. Students will also be introduced to some of the skills and techniques used by the resource industries to explore for, assess and extract Earth resources, and to plan for rehabilitation after extraction has ceased.


By the end of the course students should:

  • Understand the processes which form and concentrate Earth resources.
  • Understand the methods and techniques used to explore for and extract these resources.
  • Understand the importance of environmental, social and governance best practice in the resource industries.
  • Be able to recognise, identify and describe basic ore rocks and minerals.
  • Have an introduction to the skills and knowledge needed for a career in the resource industries and associated service industries.