Core Mining (or Advanced Mining) is currently the most profitable activity in Elite Dangerous; with some good luck and experience you can earn enough money to buy an Anaconda within 1 or 2 hours.
When mining you will usually prefer a large ship with plenty of cargo space for your limpets and the minerals and gems you pick up. However, when doing core mining you will spend a lot of time searching for cores, so a ship with good speed is preferable to reduce time wasted. Also, after you blast an asteroid into pieces, you will have to carefully maneuver between these pieces, which is much easier in a smaller and more agile medium size ship than the larger ones. As you will focus your mining on rare gems only, you don't need as much cargo space as for traditional (laser) mining.
The Asp Explorer is a good ship to get started with Core mining. My personal favorite is the Krait Mk 2 as this has a decent cargo capacity, good jump range and it is also fast and agile enough for my taste. The Python can carry more cargo but is slower than the Krait. The Imperial Clipper is also a nice fast and agile ship for mining with good cargo capacity.
You need to equip the following:
- Detailed Surface Scanner - use this to discover hot-spots
- Pulse Wave Analyser - use this to discover which asteroids contain a core
- Seismic Charge Launcher - used to place charges that will break the asteroid into smaller pieces. If you have a larger ship you should consider mounting two of these as they have a limited amount of charges.
- Abrasion Blaster - used to break off surface deposits after the asteroid core have been blown apart.
- Prospector Limpet Controller - these limpets will tell you about the content of a specific asteroid, they are useful if you are mining for specific minerals and will double the amount of minerals you can mine. I recommend you equip a Prospector Limpet Controller that can control at two limpets at a time; in some occasions you will find a couple of asteroids next to each other both having cores - in this case you can tag both with a limpet which makes it much easier to find again when you have completed mining the first asteroid.
- Collector Limpet Controller - these limpets will pick up all the chunks you shoot off the asteroids. Do not buy the smallest and cheapest limpet controller; a bigger and better controller will speed up your mining and will quickly earn its value back! A controller that can handle 3 active limpets is a must. If you have a larger ship you may prefer equipping two Collector Limpet Controllers to have more active limpets picking up stuff faster.
- Refinery is required for gathering the chunks your collectors pick up. As you will focus mining on only a few rare items, you will only need a small refinery.
- Fuel Scoop (optional) - if you need to refuel during a long travel between your mining spot and the station where you will sell all the goods.
- Sub-Surface Displacement Missile (optional) - this missile is used to dig up sub-surface deposits. You can sometimes find a sub-surface deposit with rare gems like Void Opal or Low Temperature Diamond but it is really rare. You better focus on finding cores. But if you have a spare hard-point, you can mount one if you like.
- Fill up the rest of your optional slots with Cargo racks.
- Before you head out into space, make sure to fill about 2/3 of your cargo space with limpets for your limpet controllers; on the space station select Advanced Maintenance, then Restock and buy enough limpets for your mining expedition.
- Before launching a collector limpet, make sure you do NOT target anything; if you do, then the limpet will only pick up this single item and then self-destruct! By not having any target selected, the limpet will pick up all nearby stuff until it time out.
I recommend you setup your firegroups like this:
- D-Scanner ; Surface Scanner
- Pulse Wave Analyser ; Prospector Limpet
- Seismic Charge Launcher (1) ; Seismic Charge Launcher (2)
- Abrasion Blaster ; Collector Limpet Controller
Finding a hot-spot
First you need to find a system and a planet where you want to mine. You can use EDDB to find a suitable planet with a pristine Ice ring, where you can mine Void Opal and Low Temperature Diamonds, which currently is the best way to make profit from mining. Before heading out consider also using INARA to find the best spot to sell the stuff you are planning to mine in order to max your profit.
When you arrive at the planet where you have planned to be mining, fire a probe with your Detailed Surface Scanner towards the ring. One probe is enough - when it engages it will display all hot-spots in the entire ring. Locate a hot-spot with Void Opal or Low Temperature Diamond's - fly close and manually drop out of FSD when you get close.
Finding a core
Use the hot-spot as a beacon to show you which direction to fly - or use the planet itself to navigate. Avoid flying in circles as you may waste time scanning the same asteroids you just scanned before. While you fly around use the Pulse Wave Analyser to scan for asteroids with possible cores. All asteroids with some kind of deposits will be displayed with a yellow -orange-red glow; you should focus your attention to bright yellow asteroids only!
Scan again as you fly closer and you may notice some black lines going through the asteroid - the more the better as this indicates a possible core! After a while you will learn which asteroid shapes are likely to have a core and which are unlikely so you don't waste time and limpets on prospecting the wrong ones.
Notice how this asteroid is more bright yellow than the others.
As you continue scanning some black lines show up - there is a good chance this asteroid has a core!
When you detect a bright yellow asteroid with lots of black lines, fly closer and launch a Prospector Limpet to see what the asteroid contains. If the asteroid contains a core, the contents of the core will be displayed with a blue text on the lower left screen (see image below) - if not find another asteroid and try again.
Core detected - notice the blue text at the screen to the lower left.
Mining a core
After you have found an asteroid with a core, target one of the fissures and switch to a fire-group with Seismic Charge Launcher. Make sure to check if the fissure is low/average/high strength and charge your Seismic Charge Launcher accordingly; hold down the fire button to charge up - notice there are three small bars next to the target on your hud; keep the charge within the first bar for a low strength seismic charge, charge it to the second bar for an average charge and charge it up to the third bar for a high strength charge.
After you place the charge, move on to target the next fissure and once again make sure to check the strength. Also keep track on the display in the upper right corner; you should aim to charge the asteroid so all the light blue pixels are highlighted but be very careful not to charge too much or too many fissures; if you get into the red area, you will loose materials from the explosion! If you get into the red range, you should target one of the charges and then disarm it using your contacts list on the left screen.
Pro tip: If you get tired of the mini-game of placing charges of the right strength, you can just start by placing to high strength charges no matter what you have targeted. After that you will need 1-2 low or medium charges depending on how close you are to the blue pixels.
Notice: As soon as you place the first charge, a timer starts. All the charges will automatically detonate when the timer runs out or you can start the detonation earlier using the contacts list on your left screen. Make sure to move your ship at least 1.000 m away from the asteroid before detonation to avoid damage!
If the asteroid detonates successfully, open your Cargo Scoop and launch your collector limpets. The limpets should immediately start picking up stuff, otherwise move a little closer to the asteroid.
Important: Make sure to not target anything when launching collector limpets - otherwise they will only collect the targeted item and then self-destroy!
When your limpets have collected most of the stuff blasted off the asteroid during the detonation, you can blast off the rest of the surface deposits using your Abrasion Blaster. Be careful when maneuvering as you can easily damage your ship on all the asteroids - or destroy any nearby limpets. Also notice that the minerals and gems you blast of will decay over time - if you only have 1-2 limpets you should be careful not blasting off too many fragments as the limpets may not be able to pick all of them up before they decays completely.
When your cargo hold is full, make sure to use INARA to find the best nearby place to sell you stuff to max your profit. You should be able to get about:
- Void Opals ~1.6 MCr pr ton
- Low Temperature Diamons ~1.2 MCr pr ton