New Frontiers: Raw Materials

14th October 2008 – 8.12 am

My agent asks me to mine some Green Arisite, a variant of the Gneiss mineral, for a new research project. There a catch in that the ore can only generally be found in low-sec systems. I ponder this for a minute, as going in to a low-sec system only to mine seems like vacuuming in a mine field, an invitation to high-threat boredom. Even so, I have been after more excitement and adventure and heading out to retrieve some ore under fire will certainly be a different experience.

Being a mission, my agent has gone to the trouble of finding a high-sec deadspace pocket that has the required Green Arisite located within it, which saves me the trouble of getting blown up by entering the 'wrong' system, but the ore is quite rare and contested so I should expect trouble anyway. This presents me with a dilemma of how to mine the ore without dying. I have my Osprey mining cruiser, the White Cat, but it is equipped with a single light missile launcher to take care of pesky lone rats, not swarms of cruisers and frigates, and my Drake doesn't have a turret hardpoint required for a mining laser.

However, the Drake does have a drone bay and I have access to the market. A quick spending spree later and I pick up a handful of mining drones, sacrificing a bit of drone firepower so that I can safely mine whilst secure in a battlecruiser. Feeling suitably prepared for my mission I engage the warp drive and watch the stars blur past me on the way to deadspace.

Arriving in the deadspace pocket I find a bunch of hostile craft loitering around some asteroids, including two of the biggest red crosses I have yet witnessed on my overview. Yikes! Fortunately, these two huge ships turn out to be mining vessels and, apart from a couple of potshots, warp out quite early in the battle, no doubt protecting the valuable ore they have mined. Unfortunately, they send a distress signal immediately before leaving, bring reinforcements to the asteroid field.

The hostile ships are not a terrible threat to my saftey, though. My shields stay strong enough to hold off their missile damage and my heavy missiles steadily decrease their numbers. The only trouble is that the ore in the field—and there is plenty of Ombre and Gneiss floating around here—is valuable enough to continue sending waves of ships to protect it. I'm not sure if there will be a long enough break in the fighting to retrieve the ore with a dedicated vessel, one that would also be vulnerable without a protective convoy, so I send out my mining drones when I get close to the lone Green Arisite asteroid.

My plan seems to be working: the drones start mining the ore, my shields hold up, and I keep destroying ships. It falls apart when the drones return with full loads, at which point my foes decide that the ore is better drifting in space than in my hold and some well-placed shots see my drones disintegrate before being able to return to the drone bay. I am going to have to reconsider my plan, with an immediate goal of blowing up every ship I can see.

After a short while of missile launching mayhem there seems to be a break in the arriving reinforcements. Space becomes quiet, almost too quiet, and I linger briefly to make sure I have defeated all the hostile ships before warping back to the station. Rather than get more mining drones I formulate plan B, which is to get some mining lasers on to the Marquis of Granby and send my salvaging Cormorant out to get the ore. This saves me the time of having to fetch White Cat from several jumps away, which could be crucial if more enemies are likely to appear.

Sure enough, my ship's computer begins an aggression countdown timer, calculating the likelihood of further aggressors turning up, and I have limited time to retrieve the ore. Plan B is not helped by apparently having no mining lasers in my station's inventory, perhaps to discourage me from thinking mining would be a good idea, so I have to visit a different system quickly to buy and equip a couple of lasers, temporarily removing a salvaging module to do so. Once the mining lasers are equipped I head back out to the deadspace pocket and see all that lovely ore floating around amongst lots of equally lovely salvagable wrecks. And here's me in my salvaging ship! I'll grab all the salvage first, then mine later.

No, wait! I'll bookmark the location of a wreck, mine the ore, then head back to complete the mission before returning for the salvage, as this way I won't be in any danger from further attacks once the deadspace pocket is dissipated. It sounds like a good plan, with only two drawbacks. First, I warp in to deadspace within salvaging distance of most of the wrecks and I cannot bring myself to fly past it all, so instead I start reclaiming what scraps I can. Second, clearing the deadspace pocket would also remove the Gneiss and Ombre asteroids, and I have no idea when I'll see ore like Gneiss again. So I salvage as I edge ever closer to the Green Arisite asteroid. Of course, I find a mining laser amongst the wreckage, I should have guessed.

All the while I'm salvaging and mining the aggression countdown timer counts down doomfully, yet in a comforting fashion, for it would be a little unsettling should it count up instead. I manage to extract all the Green Arisite ore my agent needed me to collect. It takes a couple of trips to do so, because of the mass of the ore and all the salvage I had picked up filling the hold of the Marquis of Granby. The aggression countdown has hit zero and luckily no more ships have warped in. There is still a lot of valuable ore here. If no one else is coming to claim it, maybe I have time to get the White Cat here for some more efficient mining.

I pop back to my home system, taking the quicker Marquis of Granby over my Drake, my speedy shuttle What's That Ticking? being elsewhere. A brief two billion jumps to Jita later to expand my cargo hold and I head back to the ore-rich deadspace pocket. I lock on to a Gneiss asteroid or two and set my mining lasers to work, firing up my Bridge program on the ship's computer to play a few rubbers to pass the time.

It's not long before I remember why I don't mine that often, despite being able to distract myself. Even with plenty of Gneiss left in the asteroids, and loads of untouched Ombre, which I have some stocks of still, I decide to head back to base to complete the mission finally. Never the less, I have a reasonable haul of ore to show for my time, I now have to get it back to the station. I'm not going to get my Badger for this, instead I'll merely make a few trips back and forth between my current base and the deadspace pocket with my Osprey.

On the final trip to collect ore, emptying my container in space, a lone rat warps in to pick a fight. That's good timing! My reheat gets me to the container in plenty of time before the rat can get in to range to lock on to me and my ship aligns and achieves warp safely. I have managed to retrieve enough Green Arisite ore for my agent, some Gneiss for myself, and a whole lot of salvage and bounty rewards in the process. Another successful mission! Now I am curious as to what my agent plans to do with the ore.

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