A guide to mining progression in EVE Online
Mining is possibly the most popular career path for new EVE Online players. You can get started as an EVE Online miner pretty much as soon as you've completed the initial tutorial quests, you don't really need to know anyone else and can just mine solo, and if you stick to high-sec systems it's a relatively risk-free activity.
Unfortunately, there is a myth that mining on your own is actually the best way to earn ISK, especially as a new player. This is just plain not true for most people.
Mining can indeed be a very efficient source of ISK, but as a new player your limited ship choices and lack of appropriately trained skills mean that if it's money you're after, mission-running is a much better choice.
This guide is intended to explain the progression through mining ships in EVE Online, and give you an idea of how your efficiency and profit are affected at each stage.
Mining in a frigate
As a new player you will start the game in a pretty much useless starter ship which you can use to complete the initial tutorials. After this, whatever your career, you're most likely to end up in a frigate.
Each race has a frigate that is geared towards mining, but bear in mind the cargo sizes are small and solo mining in these ships is inefficient at best.
The best frigates for mining gain increased cargo capacity and mining laser yield as their frigate skill bonuses, and are as follows:
- Tormentor - Amarr
- Bantam - Caldari
- Navitas - Gallente
- Burst - Minmatar
The main downside of a frigate, which you will become painfully aware of during the first 5 minutes of your first mining expedition, is the lack of cargo capacity. There are three main ways to circumvent this, each with advantages and disadvantages.
- Jetcan mining - jettisoning ore into a cargo container to free up cargohold space
- "Safe" mining - returning to the station with each cargofull (very inefficient!)
- Group mining - having a hauler friend on hand to collect up all your ore and take it back to the station for you
If you're playing on a full account (as opposed to a trial account), you may have an industrial ship of your own. While industrials make great haulers on account of their large cargoholds, they can only fit one mining laser, so they are not good mining ships due to the sheer amount of time it takes them to mine the same amount as a frigate (on which you can have 3 mining lasers).
There is of course one particular scenario where mining in an industrial ship shines. If you're looking for a ship you can leave to happily mine away unsupervised while you go eat or watch TV, an industrial is for you!
Should I mine in a cruiser or train for a Retriever?
The next step up from a frigate can be one of two things; a cruiser or a Retriever.
Cruisers have larger cargo capacity and can fit more lasers than frigates, but they are still pretty inefficient. The Retriever is a mining barge, which means it's able to use strip miners which are embarrassingly good next to the mining lasers you've been using until this point. It also has moving parts on the underside that look really cool!
Obviously the Retriever is the better choice of the two, but it does take much longer to skill for, which is why only you can decide which route you prefer. Training for a Retriever probably involves at least a week, maybe up to a fortnight of training time depending on which skills you’ve already trained.
Going the cruiser route means it will take longer to get into a Retriever, but training to fly a cruiser is much faster so it's up to you whether the increase in efficiency is worth it in the long run. Most dedicated miners go straight to the Retriever, but if you are focusing on more than one career, for example mixing it up with mission-running, cruiser skills will come in very useful for that too which may make it worth training for those first.
Suitable mining cruisers are the Caldari Osprey and the Minmatar Scythe, other races don’t appear to have one.
Is a Covetor worth it?
Once you're flying a Retriever, you’ll have your eye on the end goal….a Hulk of your very own! In the meantime you have another choice to make, and this time it's between Hulk and Covetor.
The Covetor is the best and most efficient of the mining barges, and is unarguably an improvement over the Retriever. Unfortunately the skill jump between Retriever and Covetor is pretty huge, whereas the skill jump between Covetor and Hulk is relatively tiny, so many miners won't bother spending money on a Covetor and will just wait the extra couple of days for their Hulk.
The flip side of this decision is the price of each ship. The Covetor price is just a small jump from that you already paid for your Retriever, whereas the Hulk is very expensive (and rightfully so). If you have the ISK for a Hulk, by all means go straight for it. If you're struggling, then the increased profit from a Covetor will probably make saving up much easier.
The big daddy of mining ships......the Hulk!
Congratulations, you bought a Hulk and you're now officially a pro miner! This is the end of the road for most solo miners, since the Hulk is simply the best mining ship out there. Take a deep breath and bask in your own glory for a moment, and then decide whether to head for an Orca next.
The Orca is a support ship that gives bonuses to mining ships in a fleet. If you’re always going to be a solo miner, there’s not a whole lot of point in training for this, but if you’re unsure of your plans you may as well keep your options open and at least look into it.
EVE online mining ship progression is pretty short compared to some other careers, so although you may freak out slightly upon first working out the training time for a Hulk you do still have it easy compared to some other careers. Spare a thought for anyone whose ultimate EVE Online fantasy is to fly a titan!