Figuring out the optimum ship and setup for various activities is a big part of EVE's gameplay and player progression. For any given combat role, there are several ships that can do the job amicably and at least a dozen viable ways to fit each of them. In contrast, the ship progression for miners is very straightforward. The Retriever's big brother is the Covetor, a ship that's not very commonly used because the skill training time between a Covetor and its tech 2 upgrade the Hulk takes at most a few days. The Hulk is EVE's best mining ship, featuring two separate bonuses to mining yield and the ability to fit three strip miners or ice harvesters.
Haulers for group mining operations can get a small benefit from training for tech 2 transport ships, which have a slightly larger cargo hold than their tech 1 counterparts. The big upgrade for haulers is the Orca, which has a large enough cargo hold to store several jettisoned containers full of ore and a range bonus for tractor beams to remove the need to fly between containers. The Orca also has an impressive bonus to mining gang links, which improve the mining capabilities of all gang members. For ice mining, the best ship in the game is the Mackinaw, a tech 2 version of the lowly Retriever. Although it can only field two ice harvesters, the Mackinaw has a built-in role bonus which doubles their output yield. As a result, those two ice harvesters output four harvesters' worth of ore.
Location, location, location
When EVE was first released, the ores had ISK values that made perfect sense from a game design perspective. The ore available in high-security space was worth the least, with ore in low-security space yielding over twice as much ISK per hour and nullsec mining producing huge amounts of ISK. Long ago, changes in mineral prices caused this to no longer be true.
While the most valuable ores are still the nullsec-only Mercoxit, Arkonor, Bistot and Crokite, Ores like Jaspet and Hemorphite that begin to appear in low security space are only worth a little more than the ores that can be found in high-security space. The best ores to mine currently are Pyroxeres, Kernite and Plagioclase, all of which can be found in high-security space. Scordite, Veldspar and Omber aren't too far behind and are worth mining if the more valuable ores run out.
Finding a good system to mine in can be tricky. Systems near trade hubs tend to be busy, and the belts are often mined out daily. The ideal mining grounds should be rarely visited systems with 0.5 or higher security rating, in which plenty of Pyroxeres, Kernite or Plagioclase can be found. Thankfully, there are some fantastic tools out there to help you find a nice spot. Fluidorbit.co.uk offers an awesome searchable database of all EVE systems. You can search for certain ore types, narrow by region, and even arrange the results by security rating to find a nice spot. Note down the names of systems with plenty of asteroid belts, as these have the highest potential for mining. You can then look the systems up on Dotlan maps and find out how well-traveled the system is. If you don't mind hauling an extra jump, systems without space stations are rarely mined in and tend to be full of ore.
A matter of efficiency
The question of what to do with your ore is as old as EVE itself, and the answer depends largely on your refining skills. Unless you're getting close to a 100% refine rate on your ore, chances are someone else who does get a 100% refine rate is willing to buy your ore to make a slight profit. Before refining your ore, check how much of each mineral you'll get using the refine window and then total up the value of those minerals using prices from Jita buy orders. Even if the additional ISK to be made refining your own ore is tiny, it's still worthwhile to train refining skills. Advanced refining skills will qualify a player to use consumable mining crystals, which can be used in a Modulated Strip Miner II to increase mining yield.
The highest buy order value for your ore will also probably be found in Jita, but remember that the time you take to haul your ore here has an inherent value. If there's not much of a difference between the value of your ore and the refined minerals, you may be better off refining it before transport as minerals take up much less space. If you're mining far from a trade hub, the ideal plan is to let your ore or refined minerals pile up and then periodically use a freighter to deliver them to Jita for sale.
Every now and then, I come across players who say they mine their own minerals to lower production costs on ships, ammo and modules. The thinking behind this is that the minerals you mine yourself are free as they cost you nothing but time to acquire. This isn't true, and it's due to an economic factor called opportunity cost. If you mine 10 million ISK's worth of tritanium and use it to build something for sale, you have to consider the fact that you could alternatively have sold that tritanium for ISK. Similarly, if you can make more ISK per hour doing something other than mining, it's more profitable to make ISK that way and buy the minerals you need rather than mining them yourself.
Mining in high-security space can be a very relaxing way to make ISK in the background while you're doing something else. To get the most out of your mining time, you'll need far more than just a Hulk and a good book to read. Finding a nice quiet system with plenty of asteroid belts and valuable ore can make a huge difference, and a little extra ISK can be generated by figuring out whether it's worth refining your ore. In next week's final part of this guide, I'll delve into some of the more advanced mining topics. I'll look at spawning asteroids using the mission system, using a starbase as a base of operations in outlying systems, and how to run a wormhole mining expedition for massive profit.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.