Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Efficient Ice Mining in Highsec

I mention from time to time my Jita alt.  He does most of the buying and selling for my corporation, and also flies supplies to us in a freighter.  I keep him in the Forge most of the time, so that he can tweak prices.  When he is not busy buying, selling, or hauling, and I am not needing the combat pilot on his account, I often ice-mine with him.  Ice mining is decent income when the ice is around.  With full Orca boost, you can earn perhaps 20m per hour.  Since you can do this semi-AFK, I often ice-mine while my main is busy in wspace or out exploring.

There's been a bit of discussion recently about how highsec players ought to mine ice for best income.  Gevlon Goblin has taken it upon himself to gank highsec miners until they use Procurers or Skiffs.  He does not seem to realize that these ships are the best miners only when nobody is ganking, and even then, not always.  Partly in reaction to this, Lucas Kell proposes his alternative approach: yield tanking:
...the basis behind Yield Tanking is simple.  If you can make more isk in any given period while losing a Covetor, than you can mining in a Procurer, it's better to go with a yield fit Covetor.  With the stats above, in 10.8 hours, the Covetor makes the same as the procure PLUS it's own cost.  This means if you get ganked every 10.8 hours of mining, you are as efficient mining in a Covetor.
I criticized "Yield" tanking there, so you can go there to see that.  I disagree with both these approaches for ice miners, at least for the average ice miner.  Both Gevlon and Lucas are correct in a narrow way, but not more generally.

Gevlon's mistake is the more obvious: a tank is only useful if there is ganking going on.  If not, you are flying the wrong ship.  Gevlon feels that you should always always always be prepared for a worst case: there is always a ganker potentially about to kill you.  But this is obviously counterfactual, and especially so in ice anomalies.  For in an ice anomaly, there are typically many miners.  If you are the only miner on your grid, and you know there are gankers about, then OK.  Better get a Procurer.  But otherwise, you can probably improve your yield.

Lucas's idea is valid for a reasonable mining method: group mining with an Orca.  But it does not really apply to the average guy, just running a single miner or two.  This guy might get an Orca boost from a friendly local, but he must provide his own transport.  For him, ore hold size is a big deal, because he loses two minutes per load dumping it off.

Also, there is the matter of implants.  If you have dedicated miner pilots, then you don't care about implants other than mining-related ones.  You lose 3% yield (which I don't think Lucas is taking into account) by using an empty clone.  But many characters are not dedicated miners: they are training something else, and have the implants for it.  So for them, getting podded is a serious problem.

My mining philosophy might be called the "Low Hanging Fruit" strategy, as in: don't be the low hanging fruit. Gankers, like anyone else, want things to be as easy and foolproof as possible. So they'll go for the weakest tank and easiest target.  Here are some of the ways in which you can avoid being the low-hanging fruit.

First, get a better tank than others in your anom.  Always be aware of the other miners mining with you, and make sure your barge is not the most easily ganked one. So long as someone else is, you are probably safe.  If nobody else is, it's time for a tankier miner.  I keep a Procurer in the same station as my Retriever; during the Ice Interdiction I flew it routinely.  But it mostly gathers dust.

You may be tempted to fit a ship scanner and scan other ships in your anom, but don't do this.  This makes you look very suspiciously like a gank spotter.  I just assume that if there are several retrievers or Macks in my anom, at least one of them has little or no tank.  And I do have a tank (see below) -- always at least a damage control and cheap shield rigs.  Don't be the low-hanging fruit: pay attention to the other miners in your anom, and if you are the flimsiest, get a harder ship.

Second, try to get a tank such that you require one more Catalyst to kill than an untanked ship of your type.  Gevlon made a table that shows this pretty well:

Untanked, a Retriever tanks just 9700 EHP against hybrid ammo.  A max skill T2 Catalyst can do that much damage in 13 seconds -- plenty of time.  Even a low-skill T1 pilot can kill it solo.  If you put on a damage control, and a few cheap shield hardening rigs for thermal and kinetic, you increase the tank to 16600 EHP.  This requires 22 seconds of max skilled T2 Cat fire.  This is just possible for a T2 Cat in 0.5 security -- but I mine in Otela, 0.6 sec.  So it would require two Cats working together to gank me.  But if they have two Cats, they can gank not just me, but a weakly tanked Mack.  What will they choose, the 40m ship or the 177m ship?  Don't be the low-hanging fruit: fit enough tank to require an extra quantum of gank.

Third, orbit something while you mine, at a range of at least 2500 and preferably 5000.  I orbit the ice itself -- it's conveniently there -- but you might also put out a jetcan for the purpose.  Orbiting the ice has the disadvantage that when that particular iceberg is gone, you go flying off into space.  So you need to pay some attention.

Why does orbiting help deter gank?  Because it makes things harder for the ganker.  The range on weapons gankers use is very low.  Light neutron blaster IIs, which are what T2 Cats use, have an optimal range of 2.5km and falloff 2.3km.  So if their warpin point is even a little bit off from you (and there is always 2500m of randomness in every warp), they may start out of optimal range.  They can easily make mistakes.  As a result, gankers prefer stationary targets.  Well, at least as I write this, most miners are stationary.  Don't be the low-hanging fruit: move while you mine.


  1. Great tips. Thanks and fly safe o7

  2. Von, are your tips still valid after the latest changes (as of today)?

  3. Дончо, there are no changes that I am aware of which affect mining since Rubicon, and probably back to Odyssey. If you have a specific change in mind, please comment further. One change worth mentioning is that Gevlon is no longer ganking miners. So, the threat environment may be a bit more slack. But on the other hand, the New Order is growing.

    In any case, the general ideas behind the three mining strategies which I discuss above are still valid.