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Elite Dangerous: The Best Mining Ships

Elite Dangerous is a space simulator in every sense of the word: even seemingly mundane tasks are given a lot of attention, and mining is no exception. There are multiple combinations of gear, several different ships to try, and an ore variety that makes other game’s mining mechanics look like 2009 Minecraft.

Heading out on a mining expedition is one of the more lucrative activities for newbie astronauts and experienced players alike. A successful mining trip in Elite Dangerous is all about the ship you use. Here’s a guide to the best ships in the game.

Mining Fundamentals In Elite Dangerous

Like everything in Elite Dangerous, mining is pretty complicated. There are some key things you need to keep in mind before planning a mining run: the type of ship you’re using, the installations on board said ship, and the type of ore you’re going for. You can read more about how to get started with mining in this comprehensive mining guide.

Best Beginner Mining Ship – Cobra Mark 3

The Cobra Mark 3 is a jack-of-all-trades kind of ship. It’s suitable for traders, explorers, pirates, and for the purposes of this guide, as a mining ship. The Cobra costs just under 400,000 credits, which is very reasonable for a beginner ship. Here are a few of the specifics:

  • The Cobra Mark 3 has a default cargo capacity of 18 tonnes, plenty for a good amount of ore
  • It has a default max speed of 282 m/s, which is ideal if you find yourself in a run-in with miner-hunting pirates
  • The Cobra has 2 Utility Mounts, 2 Small Hardpoints, and 2 Medium Hardpoints, which means you can stock it with the gear you need for a mining run

Cobra Mark 3 Laser Mining Starter Build

The first thing you should do once purchasing ship is to replace the E-rated modules with better gear. Laser mining focuses on two key resources: Painite or Low-Temperature Diamonds. To find these hotspots you’re going to need a scanner, a mining laser, and enough collector limpets to make the hoarding process a bit easier. An example build looks like this:

  • Lightweight Alloy, Life Support, Thrusters (these are the core internal parts of your ship)
  • Mining Laser
  • Cargo Rack, add in an extra rack if you’ve got the space
  • Detailed Surface Scanner, this is the only way to find ore
  • Refinery, so you can refine the ore onboard the ship
  • Collector Limpets scoop up the ore so you don’t have to
  • Heat Sink Launcher, the Cobra has the capability to fire back, so why not?

Cobra Mark 3 Core Mining Starter Build

Core mining is all about blasting apart asteroids and harvesting the minerals inside. There are a lot of technical algorithms and complicated graphs as to which asteroids are worth mining, but as a newbie miner you probably just want to go for the glowing ones and hope for the best. Glowing? Yes, the core mining method relies heavily on the Surface Scanner and Pulse Wave Scanner to find ores. They’re highlighted with a bright color.

To successfully core mine in a Cobra Mark 3 you need:

  • Pulse Wave Scanner, used to scan entire asteroid belts
  • Detailed Surface Scanner, scans specific asteroids
  • Abrasion Blaster and a Seismic Charge Launcher to destroy the asteroids
  • Refinery, so you can refine your ore onboard
  • Collector and Prospector Limpet Charges, to collect ore and check the mineral content
  • Cargo racks to carry all your yummy ore back to a station

A Mining Ship Upgrade – The Python

With all the ore you’ve just mined with the Cobra, it’s time to start thinking about an upgrade. The Python is the next logical step. This multipurpose ship is a straight upgrade to the Cobra in many ways, including its defensive and offensive stats, cargo size, and extra hardpoints. It costs 55,000,000 credits, so it’s quite a jump from the Cobra. Here are some of the specifics:

  • The Python has a default cargo capacity of 82 tonnes, although can reach close to 300 tonnes when maxed out
  • Top speed of 235 m/s as a default
  • 4 Utility Mounts, 2 Medium Hardpoints, and 3 Large Hardpoints

Core and Laser Mining with the Python

The basics are similar to the builds for the Cobra, although due to the size of the Python you can include a lot more of what you need. It’s a good idea to specify your ship for each mining trip, so ditch the core gear if you’re laser mining and vice versa. It’s also important to balance cargo racks with overall speed and maneuverability – you’re going to be a target for pirates. Here’s a sample build:

  • Thrusters, Lightweight Alloy, Frame Shift Drive (the core internals of your ship, should be decently rated)
  • 2 x Cargo Rack, 3 Limpet Collectors, and a Fuel Scoop
  • Shield Generator – essential if you want to survive pirate attacks
  • Refinery, Detailed Surface Scanner, Prospector Limpet
  • 4 x Mining Laser (reduce to 2 if you find you’re having power problems)

As an aside, the Python is ideal for speedy mining trips. Get in and out quickly and keep efficiency to a maximum. Give up extra cargo racks for faster jump time and quicker refueling speed.

Top-tier Mining Ship – Imperial Cutter

The Imperial Cutter can provide optimal mining performance. It has the largest cargo capacity of any ship in the game currently, enough hardpoints and defenses to pack a punch against pirates, and is speedy enough to carry out several mining trips in quick succession. It’s considered one of the best combat ships, although there a lot of other ships to choose from. However, it also costs over 200,000,000 credits, so it’s typically used by experienced Elite Dangerous players. Here are some of the specifics:

  • The Cutter has a cargo capacity of 164 tonnes but can hit close to 800 if you max it out
  • Top speed of 202 m/s, plenty for navigating between asteroids
  • 8 Utility Mounts, 4  Medium Hardpoints, 2 Large Hardpoints, 1 Huge Hardpoint

Core Mining and Laser Mining Build for the Cutter

The Cutter is suitable for both core and laser mining. It has plenty of available space for cargo fitting while also providing enough for weapons capable of going toe-to-toe with pirates. Chuck in a Shield Generator and you’ve got a very tanky ship that can mine freely, even with a full cargo hold. Here’s a sample build:

  • Lightweight Alloy, Power Plant, Thrusters (and other general core internals of any ship)
  • 3 x Cargo Rack, one of the biggest benefits of a ship the size of the Cutter
  • Prismatic Shield Generator (top-tier shield for pirate combat)
  • 2 x Collector Limpet, Prospector Limpet Controller
  • Refinery and Detailed Surface Scanner

In terms of weaponry and shields, this is where the Cutter really excels. A recommended fit might be a Multi-Cannon, 2 x Beam Laser, and up to 3 Mining Lasers. You can also fit several Shield Boosters onboard.

In summary

Mining in Elite Dangerous is complex, very rewarding, and can provide a solid income of credits to progress through ships and upgrades. There are a lot of meta techniques to maximize profit, such as the types of ore and minerals that provide the most money, monitoring the market onboard Fleet carriers and stations to find best selling prices, and even fitting out a ship as a pirate to take down other miners.

NEXT: 10 Best Strategy Games Set In Space

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Harry Alston is a writer based in the UK. He was once number one in the world on Call of Duty: Black Ops and now spends his days chasing that past glory.

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