Entry-level mining requirements
Technically, any ship with turret hardpoints can fit a couple of standard mining lasers and start hoovering up rocks like they're made of solid gold (which in the case of Omber might just be true). This is largely a throwback to the days when standard mining lasers were the only way to mine. Before the introduction of mining barges many years ago, mining had to be done in cruisers and battleships designed for combat. Today, the Retriever medium-sized mining barge should be treated as the entry-level ship for mining. The smaller Procurer is outclassed by most cruisers, and the training time required to pilot a Retriever is roughly the same as that required to get into a cruiser.
Although it's possible to mine around the same amount as you'd get in a Retriever using a specialised mining cruiser like the Osprey or Scythe, the Retriever has the invaluable benefit of having a massive cargo hold. If you've got a little ISK to spare for two tech 2 cargo expanders and three medium tech 1 cargohold optimisation rigs, a Retriever can hold almost 5,000m3 of ore. That means the ship can be left completely unattended for around five minutes before its cargo hold will need to be emptied. As mining is usually considered a very boring activity, it's very desirable to be able to leave your ship unattended for several minutes in the background while you do other things. Mining barges can also field a full set of five mining drones and have the added advantage of being able to fit ice harvesters to mine ice asteroids.
When mining solo, a player has to periodically dock and offload his mined ore. A basic strategy, commonly referred to as as ninja-mining, involves docking every time your cargo-hold fills to offload your ore immediately. A popular alternative strategy involves jettisoning your ore into space, which places it in a large temporary container with a maximum capacity of 27,500m3. Every time your cargo hold fills up, you can dump it into this temporary container. When enough ore is floating in containers to make a hauling trip worthwhile, you can then switch to an industrial ship with a much larger cargo capacity and collect your ore in one or two trips.
Mining into jettison containers will reduce the time you spend warping around and so let you spend much longer periods of time mining. If you use this strategy, keep in mind that the temporary jettison containers only last for a maximum of two hours and other players can steal from them. Although any thieves will be flagged as a valid PvP target of your corporation for 15 minutes, it's generally advised that you don't engage them. Many ore thieves steal ore with the sole intention of provoking a hostile response. Remember that even if your mining ship's combat drones can feasibly destroy a thief's frigate or industrial ship, once you open fire you become a valid PvP target for the thief for the next 15 minutes. There's nothing stopping him from coming back in a combat ship to finish the job. If you become the victim of ore theft, the best course of action is to cut your losses and switch to a safer ninja-mining strategy.
Group mining ops
When mining as part of a group, one player can be designated as the group's hauler and can support several miners at once. Miners can either mine into their own individual jettisoned containers or combine their ore into one container. Each pilot can only make a new container once every few minutes, and containers will be destroyed if they are ever completely emptied. To prevent this from happening during a mining op, people will often place an item or a bookmark in the container. As the containers last between one and two hours before expiring, they should be renamed to indicate the time of their creation and completely emptied before they reach the one hour mark.
The use of a dedicated hauler means that miners can stay in the asteroid belt and mine without interruption for the entire duration of the mining op. Even if the hauler is given a generous cut of the proceeds for his time and effort, each participant in the op tends to come out with more ore than he otherwise would have had. To make the final ore or mineral splitting easier, the hauler is often also tasked with recording exactly how much each person has mined or keeping tabs on how many minutes each player is in the group for.
Although it's considered by many to be a boring activity, mining can be a great way to make some extra ISK while chatting with friends, reading a book or catching up on the latest news. In next week's second part of the EVE Evolved guide to mining in EVE Online, I look into some of the more intermediate mining issues. Topics I'll cover include the equipment upgrades a miner or hauler can look forward to, the best types of ore to mine, how to find a nice quiet system to mine in, and how to get the most out of your ore.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to email@example.com.