Asteroid Mining


I have an upcoming event planned for my players a few sessions out - discovery of massive asteroid with an enormous deposit of uncommon ore (the dice took off on me as I went thru the tables...). The players are more focused on building things rather than gallivanting across the galaxy, so I anticipate they will at least take a look at setting up their own mining operation.

Challenges -
  • the asteroid is in a highly eccentric orbit
    The system mainworld is TL 3 so all tech required needs to be brought from elsewhere
    The system government is xenophobic and will look harshly on any off world organization claiming “their” asteroid (but the players presently have good relationships there)

What i’m looking for is some help thinking through the scope of the work. What sort of infrastructure would be needed for full-scale mining operations? What resources (money, people, time) would it take? Would it make more sense to ship unrefined ore or refined?

Any thoughts about this are appreciated....


Cosmic Mongoose
Tech level 3 is flintlocks, telegraph, stagecoaches and hot air balloons. Don't antagonize the natives and they will never know you're there. Big challenge is be nice if you need some supplies but that means they might want to know what your doing up there.

High Guard 2e has some mining rule but you might want to hunt down a copy of Beltstrike from 1e for extensive rules on everything belting. I'm assuming the operation starts with a small group of PCs that could build as they expand. Adventure can involve planetside interactions, claim jumpers and pirates, mining incidents and, of course, Weird Happenings on the asteroid.


Banded Mongoose
At TL 3 the natives will never know the PCs are mining the asteroid and be unable to do anything about it if they find out, so long as everyone stays off planet. If the characters or hired workers land on the planet they may be subject to arrest or execution, so keeping good relations with the local rulers is important.

A highly eccentric orbit is not a problem for Stellar era ships unless the asteroid gets quite close to the sun at perigee. Protective measures may be required to deal with extremes of tempurature and radiation, but these measures should not be difficult to implement.

It is more efficient to ship refined materials than bulk ore, so at least minimal processing should be done if the group wants to maximize its profit. 2nd edition Highguard has options for a metal refinery or eve manufacturing plants at the end of the Space Stations chapter. These options can be used on a very small scale to cut down costs. As an experiment, I created a 50 ton Mining Station that processes and refines 20 tons of ore per day for less than MCr. 44. It will actually pay for itself in less than a year. Larger and more expensive stations can process far more and actually repay their investment far more quickly.

Now we get to consider the morality of the operation. Just because the characters can do something with impunity does not mean that they should do it. The people of the planet have a right to benefit from the resources of their system. A complete disregard for the rights and welfare of the planetary population will only intensify their xenophobia and hatred for outsiders. At the minimum, permission should be obtained from the rulers of the planet, with compensation in money and/or materials produced. Paying large sums to a small ruling class is much cheaper but less desirable than spreading the benefits over the entire population, but the later is far more likely to prepare the inhabitants to fully join the broader galactic society once they develop the ability to do so.


Cosmic Mongoose
Unless someone goes to the trouble to tell the inhabitants there are vast riches way up in the sky, the inhabitants will be blissfully ignorant and happy to get their resources just a stone's throw away. Maybe a century or two and they could be exploring their system and MIGHT find a gutted rock with foot and tire tracks. A curiosity factor for years to come but they may never discover what was taken.

Rather than a threat, the planet's inhabitants would be better as side quests.


Cosmic Mongoose
The world may have an agreement with someone to patrol and protect their outer system, including the Imperium or another local system polity. A low TL and a desire to be alone doesnt mean they are stupid or unaware of the greater universe. After all they had to get to the planet somehow ans they would understand the idea of riches in their system.


Emperor Mongoose
If it is a 3I setting and the TL3 world is part of the Imperium then yes they can bring in higher TL help. their xenophobia is going to hinder that.

The other issue is that planets don't own their systems within the Imperium unless their treaty with the Imperium says they do, if a megacorporation finds the asteroid first they will lay a claim with Imperial authorities to develop its resources.


Cosmic Mongoose
One other factor, what is the starport code? Government and Law Level might be useful to know too. All we know is 1800s and xenophobic. After that, we're speculating.


Emperor Mongoose

They may surprise you.

It's the reason we have primitive variants of rockets.


NOLATrav said:
@Condottiere... Amazing how you always find the most ridiculous - and relevant - imagery...

Agreed!!! :)

I should make clear - the players already have a relationship with the local planetary rulers. They’re actually helping put a small orbital station in place that will allow the locals to monitor most of their system. (Doing something about unwanted visitors is another matter...).

The local starport was a C prior to the revolution but has slipped to a D thanks to war damage and general lack of maintenance. One of the contracts the players have with the government is to survey the port and determine what it would take to get things running again. (Answer - a lot.)

Population is 6,law level is 5. Government type is Representative Democracy so far, but it’s still early days as the revolutionaries learn how to run the planet. And a counter-revolution is a possibility...

I’ll have to check out the space station rules again. A small refinery sounds like a great way to bootstrap the mining.

Thank you all for the thoughts!


Cosmic Mongoose
Is this port Imperial or some other entity whether a foreign government or a business? I'm assuming a war with the locals to do that to a starport means little offworld support and the owners withdrew leaving mostly burned out building with just enough for small time operation like Bubba's run down garage/gas station and adjoining motel off the main road. I can see this as a place of tension with the populace edgy and unhappy with the port and the offworlders it hosts while the government is giving protection in exchange for resources and aid. We see that on Earth with back countries. Actually negotiating an incredibly expensive station at a D port is very generous and should make the PCs very close with the authorities if not the general population. Less offending traffic planetside to annoy the people while catering to whatever the ship traffic purpose is. (A stopover on the way to someplace important?) I can see the mining operation will also subsidize the station construction and the government is happy to contract the mining rights with proper fees. Win-win.


That’s pretty much where things are headed at present. It’s a non-Imperial port and was previously operated by the ruling oligarchy, so when they came up on the losing end of the revolution the port operators bailed.

I’ve also established that there’s a small number of resident drifters / scavengers who have been slowly dismantling what’s left to sell for scrap - or performing occasional day labor, stealing from visitors or worse. These could be allies or enemies, maybe both. Minor foes but they help add to the tension.