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The Mining Process
Ah! You're back. Good. Looks like you're still interested in mining, then.
Fair warning before we start the discussion, this is a discussion of basics, so there aren't any pretty pictures to stare at, yet. This should be a short discussion, but it could be a bit dry. You might want to refresh your coffee before we begin.
Well, as we discussed last time, having the equipment is one thing, understanding the process it another.
To be sure, we're talking about the overall process of mining, at a high level.
(Yes, Dook, I hear you and your "BO-RING!" chant going on... Dook will never be a miner...)
Put simply, a process is a series of actions or operations leading to a desired or intended outcome. In our case, the intended outcome is credits! So, mining is a process for earning credits.
That's why you want to mine, right? Credits?
Well, in its most basic form, mining is a four-step process, consisting of scanning, fracturing, extracting, and transporting.
Mind you, I'll go into much greater depth on each of these steps, in separate, later discussions. But, for the moment, we want a good, overall look at what's involved, and what you should expect as you take on the fantastic and exciting career of mining. (Sound like a recruiter's pitch? I've been practising.)
Before you can actually mine anything, you have to find something worth mining. Of course, this means you have to scan for something to mine. When we talk about scanning, most people think about the scanning equipment aboard a mining ship.
Certainly, while all mining ships have scanners, so do ground mining vehicles and mining hand tools. And, they generally work about the same, regardless of which you use. But, I did want to take a moment to remind you about another kind of scanner, the Mark I Eyeball.
That's right, I said eyeball. Once you've mined a few rocks and begin to develop a sense of what they look like, you can often identify minable rocks without the use of electronic devices. It may take you a while to develop this sense, but once you have, it can be a tremendously useful tool. Especially in an area where there may be possibly unfriendly, or even hostile people about...
Remember that electronic scanners emit electromagnetic radiation, and that can be tracked by anyone who happens to pass close enough to your position. However, unless you have one of those fictitious Borg implants, your eyes won't give you away to anyone.
Still, you'll probably spend most of your time using an electronic scanner. Although at first glance, it appears these have only two modes of operation, they actually have three...
The first advertised mode is an active scan. This is a "ping" that your scanner sends out, and it reads the returns for indications of minable materials. If you think of it in terms of the old Earth warships, it's like hunting for a submarine using SONAR. Again, though, the problem with pinging is that it also tells others where you are.
The second advertised mode is a mineral composition scan. Once you've located a rock that contains minable materials, you use the composition scan to determine what the materials actually are. Depending on what you're looking for, the composition scan will tell you whether you want to fracture the rock you've found, or that you want to move on and look for another rock.
The third mode that isn't advertised is a passive scanning mode. This is similar to the active ping, but it relies on the natural reflectivity of minerals using standard signal processing built into the scanner's passive receiver. If you've flown low over the landscape of a moon that contains minable materials, even if you aren't actively scanning for them, you may see icons appear on your Heads-Up Display, representing either boulders or gems, indicating ship-minables, or vehicle or hand minables, respectively.
The scanners on every ship have this capability, it's simply a matter of whether you're flying low enough and slow enough for your scanners to detect minables in a passive mode.
Every ship also has an active scan and a composition scan, even if it isn't a mining vessel. That's because the same scanners can be used to examine other ships or vehicles that you may encounter. The effectiveness of a given ship's scanners for the purpose of detecting minable materials varies wildly. So, depend more on your mining ships' scanners or those of a dedicated scanning vessel, before you worry about the abilities of some less specialized ship.
These scanning modes are also available on ground mining vehicles, but those are already attuned to look for minables.
While hand mining tools definitely have a composition scanner built into them, you shouldn't expect them to have a ping mode or a passive scan mode. This isn't to say the tool from a given manufacturer doesn't have these modes, but that, being a pistol-like tool, you'd have to be holding it up in front of you the whole time, and that would be tiring. Rather, when hand-mining, you rely more on your Mark I Eyeball than you do any scanner built into your mining hand tool.
So, those are the basics, and I genuinely mean basics of scanning. We'll talk about scanning in much greater detail at a later time.
Once you've found a rock that contains the materials for which you're looking, you can't simply vacuum it up and fly away. Rather, you need to fracture the rock into smaller pieces. The intent of fracturing is similar to that of refining, except that you're doing it on a much more gross scale. In fact, once you fracture the rock you initially found, you may find that you have to further fracture some or all of the smaller pieces until you find something worth collecting.
What you're really doing here is removing any inert and invaluable material, sorting through the rubble for those materials worth credits.
Although we're using mining lasers, they aren't intended to cut through the rock like some kind of magical sword. Rather, the laser charges the rock with energy, causing the rock to heat up until some of the chemical bonds break, separating the rock into smaller pieces.
It's important to note that when you heat up a rock in this way, it's terribly easy to over-heat the rock, causing it to explode.
Depending on how much you over-charge a rock, the resulting explosion has the potential to seriously injure or kill you, or if you're mining using a ground vehicle or ship, the explosion could severely damage, disable, or even destroy the vessel.
When we discuss fracturing in more depth, we'll talk about techniques for safely fracturing rocks, and how to recognize when you may be overcharging a given rock. After all, it doesn't do any good to have pieces of a rock to collect, but no hands or arms with which to collect those pieces.
Remember... safety first!
After you've fractured your rock into pieces small enough to pick up, you not only need a way to grab them but also a place to put them.
When you're mining by hand, using a hand mining tool, the pieces that you're left with from the fracturing process are generally small enough to pick up with one hand. Which is great, because you can simply bend down and pick up the pieces. But, unless you've had a mining accident, you probably have only two hands. That's only a few chunks of rock, at best, and probably not worth the time, effort, and resources to fly out for just a few chunks.
Similarly, if you happen to be mining in a cave, it's horribly inefficient to pick up a few pieces, walk them back to your ship, return o the mine and pick up a few more pieces, and... you catch my meaning, I think.
If you're wearing armor, you'll be able to stuff a few pieces into the some of the storage compartments, but your capacity will vary according to the type of armor you're wearing.
Light armor has the least amount of storage in it. If you're lucky, you'll be able to store one or two pieces in it. Medium armor has about double the capacity of light armor, and heavy armor about double that of medium. But, still, it's only a few rocks. Nothing to make spelunking worth it. At the very least, if you're planning to mine by hand, you should buy yourself a MacFlex "Rucksack" Core (torso) armor piece. While it won't provide a lot of protection if someone starts shooting at you, you should have the capacity to mine all the rocks in a single cave and still have some capacity to spare. After that, the armor with the greatest capacity lies in the two types of environmental armor, the Novikov cold weather armor, and the Pembroke hot weather armor. Both have an immense capacity for hand minable materials, given that they are suits of armor, and not a separate vehicle.
Speaking of vehicles, if you have a Greycat ROC mining vehicle, or something similar, the vehicle has an extraction beam for picking up valuable materials that have been fractured. The principle works on the basis of a tractor beam, so it can sometimes be a nuisance to try to collect crystals that have fallen in among tall grasses or behind other rocks; the beam is somewhat easy to interrupt. However, once the beam picks up the desired pieces, they are immediately transferred to the vehicle's onboard cargo storage.
Something very much similar is true when using extraction beams on mining ships such as the Prospector and the MOLE. The difference here is scale. Whereas the ROC can hold just shy of 1 SCU of minable material, the Prospector can hold 32 SCU, and the MOLE can hold up to 96 SCU of mined materials.
However, with the greater capacity offered by the mining ships comes the potential to extract worthless and inert materials, along with the highly-valued materials you'd set out to find. Still, with some training and practice, you'll quickly become proficient at making the most of your mining runs.
As with the other subjects, we'll talk more about collecting materials at a later date.
The process culminates with the task of moving your collected ore from the place where it was mined, to the place where you can either sell or refine that ore. How you collect the ore generally determines where you take your ore when you've completed your field operations.
Hand-mined materials, and materials collected with ground mining vehicles, are generally sold at trading consoles found at various mining outposts that can be found on most moons.
Depending on the location, you can also sell some hand- and vehicle-mined materials at trading consoles found at space stations or in major cities, such as Lorville and Area 18.
These small quantities are generally considered commodity items, which is why you use the trading console to sell them.
For the materials collected with mining ships, you need a refinery console. These can be found at places such as Port Olisar or near the trading consoles in Lorville and Area 18.
In the very near future, some of the R&R stations will have completed construction of their refinery decks, which will allow mining ships to offload their hauls at those locations. But, we're also waiting for the refinery fleet to set sail in the Stanton system. Rumour has it that the first ships should be coming online around the end of the year. When that happens, the refinery ships will likely venture out close to the various major mining locations, to keep the miners in the field, rather than having them break from their tasks to unload their ships.
We'll just have to wait to see when that all comes to fruition.
(Sometimes, it's difficult being a miner in a fledgeling system. But, it can often be profitable!)
Alright, you guessed it, more on transport at a later time; at least you have an idea what to expect...
Okay... You should now have a basic understanding of the general process used to mine valuable materials. Keep in mind, though, that it isn't always linear. You may scan in what seems to be an endless cycle of rocks before you find something worth fracturing. Similarly, you may fracture many rocks before you find any pieces worth extracting. And, once your cargo compartment is full, the transport process can often be hazardous, particularly when your ship could be interdicted by pirates, or you happen to be hauling something potentially unstable, like quantanium, and you have an industrial accident on the way back to sell the ore.
The life of a miner is full of many opportunities and hazards. But, with practice and experience comes great rewards... CREDITS!
Stay safe and good hunting!
I'm honestly impressed by the quality and the amount of text you put out at this rate! <3
Although I provide some of the images, I'd like to thank whomever is providing the additional images; most of what you've seen so far are not my own.