To get started with laser (surface) mining you should pick the largest ship you can afford as more cargo space means more profit.
For most efficient mining = most profit, the ship should be able to equip all the required mining gear and also have plenty of cargo racks.
You can get started with mining in e.g. a Cobra or Asp but a Type-7 or larger ship will allow you to mine more efficient and earn more credits.
A large ship such as Type-9 Heavy, Type-10 Defender, Anaconda or Imperial Cutter will allow you to mine a lot of minerals before returning home and sell the cargo for a huge profit; they will also allow you to mount both mining lasers and some strong weapons + a strong shield in case you get attacked by pirates while mining.
You need to equip the following:
- Mining laser to break off minerals from the surface of asteroids.
- Refinery will refine the small chunks you shoot off asteroids into minerals you can sell. A large refinery is preferred as it has more bins, i.e. it can refine several different minerals at the same time.
- All the Cargo racks you can equip!
It is highly recommended that you also consider adding:
- Fuel Scoop – if you need to refuel during a long travel between your mining spot and the station where you will sell all the goods.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
Next step is picking the right spot to mine – you will want to focus your mining to the asteroid fields of ring planets with pristine reserves as mentioned before. When mining for specific minerals, make sure to check if they are collected from Ice, Rocky or Metallic asteroid fields.
Notice that some planets have rings with different materials – an ice ring will have a different color than a rocky ring. Make sure to check which ring contains Ice/Rock/Metallic and set a course for the correct ring. Slow down and drop out of FSD as you approach the asteroid field.
Laser mining in a small ship
If you are new to Elite Dangerous you will probably start your mining career in a small ship. Just equip a Mining Laser, a Refinery and as many Cargo Racks as possible and you are ready to go mining. The Cobra MK III is a decent mining ship for new pilots – I would not recommend smaller ships as the cargo space is to limited.
As you enter the asteroid field, fly close to a random asteroid and start shooting with the mining laser to break off small chunks from the asteroid. You can continue firing and breaking off chunks until the asteroid is depleted.
To pick up all the chunks of minerals, you need to first open your cargo scoop.
Then target one of the chunks and fly towards it while keeping the target in the center of the blue display to the left of your cockpit. When you have picked up everything, move on to the next asteroid and repeat.
Notice: The chunks will decay over time and they may also travel a long distance over time – you should pick them up before they either decays or travels too far away. Do not waste time when mining if you want to maximize your profit! 😉
When your cargo hold is full, use INARA to find the best place to sell your cargo.
This is how you used to mine back when Elite Dangerous was released. However it is not very efficient. If you want to increase your profit you really need a larger ship with limpets as described in next section – or go core mining as described on next page.
Laser mining with limpets
When using a Medium or Large ship for mining you should equip a Collector Limpet Controller and (optional) also a Prospector Limpet Controller.
Collector Limpets are small drones that will quickly pick up any minerals or materials you shoot off the asteroids. Larger limpet controllers can control several limperals and for a longer duration. On large ships e.g. Imperial Cutter you can equip several limpet controllers to have even more limpets active at the same time.
The Prospector Limpet will tell you the content of the asteroid so you can avoid waisting time on asteroids that does not contain the minerals you are looking for.
You need to setup a trigger for your Collector and Prospector Limpet Controller on the Fire Groups screen (right panel in your cockpit).
IMPORTANT: Remember to restock limpets before you go mining – this is done using the ADVANCED MAINTENANCE button in the lower right corner of the station services screen.
Before you start lasing an asteroid fire a single Prospector Limpet and wait for it to scan the asteroid – if it does not contain the minerals you are looking for move on to the next. Larger Prospector Limpet Controllers allow you to have several prospectors active at a time which can speed up the process.
After you have located an interesting asteroid open your Cargo Scoop and deploy your Collector Limpets.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you do not target any materials when you deploy your limpet as the limpet will then only collect this single material and then self destruct!
When you start shooting your Mining Lasers at the asteroid your limpets will quickly pick them up and deliver it to your Cargo Scoop. Continue firing until the asteroid is depleted – then move on to the next asteroid, fire a new Prospector etc.
Notice that your limpets will self destruct after a certain time or if you move too far away from them! Also avoid making sudden moves with your ship when there are nearby limpets as you risk destroying them. Also avoid fast spinning asteroids as these can destroy a nearby limpet.
When you either run out of limpets or your cargo hold is full, use INARA to find the best place to sell your cargo.
When mining in larger ships like this Type-7 you want to use a Collector Limpet Controller to quickly fill up your cargo racks.
The Imperial Cutter is the largest and most expensive ship – it can hold an impressive amount of cargo as well as several limpet controllers. For this reason it is considered the ultimate mining ship by many E:D players.