What's the most efficient Minecraft mining strategy?

  • When I'm not exploring fresh caves or lands in minecraft, I'm busy trying to find deposits of diamond, gold and iron deep in the earth. So far I've just been digging around just above bedrock on a whim to look for these rare minerals but I've started thinking that I should be taking a more controlled, efficient approach to mining.

    What is the optimal mining strategy that yields the most rare minerals while minimizing blocks removed and time spent digging and traveling?

    Edit: The existing answers are great for mining, but no one has addressed travel time to and from the mine which is usually ~60 blocks downward and incredibly tedious. Solutions?

    Minimal descent and ascent time is probably achieved with a waterfall elevator - just fall straight down into the deep water and ride a boat back up.

    I just saw that recently! It looks like a fantastic travel method.

    If you're making a large branch mine, you'll get enough iron to make a rail system, with some boosters it'll be the fastest way to the top with the largest volume of materials.

    Protected because this is slowly turning into an itemized list.

    I've some friends who built an entire automated mining system with tons of supporting infrastructure. Seems pretty easy at this point (... once you design/build the system).

    Water drops are the best way to descend. Minecart elevators are the fastest way to ascend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qShSeP5q6zs

    @enderland what would this "automated mining system" involve? Does it use command blocks, or mods? The question context is about vanilla survival

  • Mining

    Branch mining is the most efficient. There's a mathematical analysis on it in the official forums (the link is to an archive of the post).

    Here's a brief description of branch mining:

    • You dig down to the bedrock, because that's where you're going to find the most different kinds of stuff.
    • One or two layers above the bedrock, so you don't have it interfering with your work, you dig a long tunnel, 2 high and 1 wide, which will serve as the trunk.
    • Then, every 4 squares on either side of the trunk, you dig perpendicular tunnels extending out 20 blocks (or as far as you want).
    • You leave 3 undug blocks between because veins are generally 2x2 horizontally, so you will see ore in the vein even though there is technically one row of unexplored blocks.
    • When you finish that layer, you can start one a layer above, offsetting the branches by one block so that you are more likely to find veins you could possibly have missed the first time.

    So essentially, a long hallway (the trunk) with perpendicular hallways (the branches) coming off either side.

    ██▒▒▒▒▒▒  ██ blocks you should mine
    ██▒▒▒▒▒▒  ▒▒ blocks you can see
    ▒▒▒▒██▒▒  __ blocks you can't see if you don't mine ▒▒ blocks (there's none!)
    ▒▒▒▒██▒▒  Repeat this pattern as many times as needed

    From a head on view


    As with any mine, travel is most easily accomplished using minecarts.

    You can place a booster to get your cart traveling at max speed in a short distance so that you can make the trip up quickly, and you can even attach chests to mine carts to carry all your findings from the mine up the track very quickly.

    Short of minecarts, make sure you're using stairs and ladders to their fullest potential. You don't want to be jumping up one block at a time all the way from your mine to your base.

    What does the trunk look like in this case? And how do you get down and up from a surface-level base in a reasonable amount of time?

    This optimizes for minimum *space* usage. In my opinion, that's a poor choice. I mine vertically downwards, then spiral out horizontally, two blocks between the spiral arms for optimal coverage. What do I win? Time! After 100 tiles dug I'm only 9 tiles away from the vertical shaft, where I have the main storage, crafting, etc. Branch mining suffers from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlemiel_the_Painter's_algorithm : after 100 tiles dug you're 100 tiles away from your starting point.

    You didn't seem to finish reading the thread, as it states that the low density mine is **twice** as effective.

    @Joren, branch mining is meant for special resource collection. You'll need to do a **lot** of branching to get to diamond either way. The truth of the matter is that the running time is marginal compared to the mining time if you bring enough picks of the right kind. I'd suggest mining 10-16 blocks above bedrock for optimal diamond collection.

    While it may be due to a bug (which should be fixed to Increase the spawn rates of ore in other quadrants), it should be noted that rates of which minerals appear in the stone is Significantly greater in the South West area of the maps (Where your X and Z values are Positive). For logical reasoning and such see this post: http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/21705/do-positive-coordinate-locations-give-more-ore-in-minecraft I just thought this deserved some mentioning.

    **FYI**: Since Curse bought the Minecraft forums, they've screwed the URLs (sigh), and your "mathematical analysis" link is broken. I haven't yet found the new link, but here is one link on efficient mining.

    @Joren Branch mining can be done without Schlemiel problems--make your branch length 1/2 of the distance you go before returning to base. Head out, at the halfway point you go sideways then come back. (Make sure to cut a cross corridor first so you know when you're back.)

    @LorenPechtel: Yeah, more recently I tend to just do that. Or well I haven't played minecraft in a few years, but this was my most recent approach, just mining back and forth with 3 tiles between the corridors (because you cover a lot more ground than with 2 tiles in between while only missing a tiny bit more since most ores spawn in at least 2x2 blocks).

    This optimises for exposed faces, instead of exposed ore clusters. Increasing the spacing will still get you near 100% chance of exposing all clusters, while requiring less mining. In fact I think that a singular mineshaft, will be close to as efficient as a branching network, if not more so.

    +1, I can't believe I found another Beedrill lover! (Actually, I +1-ed because this is a great answer; It's now exactly +200)

    @Tally A singular shaft is, theoretically, the most efficient use of tools. You never expose more faces than necessary to move, resulting in the maximum possible efficiency for a horizontal mine. However, moving resources back to base begins to become an increasingly big problem. A single shaft will quickly become less time efficient, as the return travel increases. It is a good method on servers that make teleportation possible, but that's outside of scope.

    @zeel Yeah, the longer the shaft the longer you have to walk uselessly to extend it, so I'd suggest starting a new one after returning. Otherwise though, I see no real difference between a long shaft and multiple shorter ones, as to return you always have to walk at least the same amount of distance as you dug.

  • There is a great wiki with some number crunching.

    I use this in single player:

    ▒▒██▒▒__▒▒__   ██ blocks you should mine
    ▒▒██▒▒__▒▒__   ▒▒ blocks you can see
    __▒▒__▒▒██▒▒   __ blocks you can't see if you don't mine ▒▒ blocks
    __▒▒__▒▒██▒▒   Repeat this pattern as many times as needed

    Normally, I have a 2x1 trunk, and branches like a standard branch mine, but instead of just going outwards from the trunk, I go up one level and out, skip two blocks, then down one level and out. I leave two blocks between branches. And I leave two blocks between floors, and line up the branches the same between floors.

    There are some areas left unexplored by this pattern, but they are thin, and it is unlikely that a diamond vein with spawn entirely within that narrow region. (About 3% will). The larger number of blocks uncovered are far more likely to contain diamonds.

    If your high density branch mine gets you 100% diamonds, the low density branch mine would give you 212.6% ores in the same time, minus 3% from the earlier probability worked out before.

    Also, you ought to build it so that the floor of the lowest tunnel is on level 11, to avoid falling in lava. If you find that there are few cave systems near your mine, feel free to dig lower, but caves tend to cluster, and caves level 10 and below are filled with lava.

    I dig my main tunnel on both sides of the area I want to cover, then dig back and forth in a zigzag patten, which means I'm always digging, never walking.

    I'm not sure if this is true anymore, but it used to be that larger deposits were formed by the word generator in multiplayer, so you were less likely to miss diamond deposits when using a wider mining pattern. Thus, this pattern

    ▒▒██▒▒____▒▒____  ██ blocks you should mine
    ▒▒██▒▒____▒▒____  ▒▒ blocks you can see
    __▒▒____▒▒██▒▒__  __ blocks you can't see if you don't mine ▒▒ blocks
    __▒▒____▒▒██▒▒__     Repeat this pattern as many times as needed

    is more efficient.

    As for transit? I use a long two wide straight staircase that goes all the way to bedrock. Minecarts work well for getting me deep into the mine.

    What do the diamond / gold blocks represent in the above diagram? Possible revealed diamonds (gold) / and possible hidden diamonds

    The Gold Blocks are for blocks directly shown, while the diamond blocks are form indirectly shown blocks. If you _do_ find something in the gold blocks, then you will mine it and see the diamonds blocks. Mostly, just look at the gold blocks.

    @Raven Thanks for that question. Replaced all images here with a diagram with a key.

    @badp, Dr. Dag nab it... I finally got my head around what the images were showing only to refresh the page and find them replaced with much clearer representations. Why must you be so helpful?! :P

    @Badp I think the images *were* fine, if anything they are less helpful now.

    @Raven Feel free to re-add them _after_ you add a key to what each block means onto them, then. Lack of key was what made me redo the diagrams.

    @Badp right, so I'm confused why you redid all the pictures rather than simply creating a key (which I think would have been simpler).

    Well, anyone can go and look at the original thread on the minecraft forums, which covers *everything* related to the best mining pattern, and explains the pictures in detail. The new images seem a bit too small though.

    I am **really** confused by that diagram.

    @CallumRogers It's a face-on view of the plane of blocks, coded by their type. In other words, it's a cross section of the tunnels, you'd make. Each tunnel is offset from its adjacent tunnels.

  • If you're not married to building a completely man-made mine, the answer is to find a deep tunnel.

    Getting down to the bottom is correct, as that is where the highest concentration of useful minerals is located, but digging a tunnel doesn't expose you to nearly the same amount of blocks as using a generated cave system.

    In my primary game, I dug a mine down to the bottom, clearing out a large amount of stone, which only resulted in some coal, and very few iron, where as at the bottom I discovered a cave network (filled with lava, but some water solved that), which resulted in a large amount of coal and iron, as well as diamond and gold.

    +1 for less maths, more observation. It's always going to be faster to use a pre-dug cave.

    Maybe I'm way off, or maybe this is newer (I don't men to necro, but I was really curious and this is an amazing post), but it always seems I run into lava in pre-dug caves way more often than ones I make. Does anyone know if this is accurate, or just bad observation? Thanks!

    You just observe it more if I recall lava has the same generation chance no matter where, just caves are more open by default. Mine higher perhaps?

    @BrainFRZ Necroing is okay (sometimes even encouraged) here.

  • Just dig 2 high in one direction for a very long time, say around an hour... it's not like you'll run out of map.

    Then move 3 or four along once you've used half of your axe/s, and go back to where you started.

    This will yield more in terms of ore versus time, as you are not mucking around walking between shafts and veins, and are spending almost all the time mining. Bring with you a diamond pick axe, and a shovel, since dirt and gravel still spawn underground. Use the cobblestone you will inevitably mine for traversing lava pools, and make sure you have torches (place them every 10 or so blocks).

    I was thinking this too - loads of people talking about "maximum coverage", but it wastes a load of time - faster mining = more resources.

    This is faster only for the first few mining sessions. After you mine for long time, you quickly get to a place where you have to run for a very long time to get to new area to mine. The methods described above take a little more planning but in the long term they do seem a lot more productive (just based on my own experience of doing it both ways). To be fair though, it does depend on what you want. Doing this simpler way will probably get you a couple stacks of diamonds before you've used up all the mining area near your base, which is plenty if you only want picks/swords.

    After the first stack of diamond it just gets ridiculous.

    @legacy – so true!

  • In regards to getting to and from your mine:

    My solution is to never leave the mine. Bring down some saplings, some wheat seeds, and whatever else, and build your base underground near your mine. It's a lot safer and more predictable than living on the surface, since you can completely light your cave system.

    The only downside is that eventually your character turns pale and starts muttering about "My precious..."

    I've always enjoyed seeing massive underground homes, my friend had one that went for at least 100 chunks in each direction and was surprisingly beautiful.

  • All of the previous answers focus on minimizing blocks mined. However, if you're interested in minimizing time, there is a vastly faster late game strategy than anything discussed above.

    The approach, is to use a Diamond pickax, enchanted with Level 5 efficiency, and a Haste level II Beacon. With this setup, you mine stone instantaneously and can clear cut vast swaths of stone in very little time, exposing significantly more blocks / minute than with branch mining.

    Ethos discusses this in one of his videos.

    This is way superior to other methods for late game, nice post!

    This is definitely the way to go. I've got half a stack of diamond blocks after a few hours of mining this way. Note: it's not cobblestone that mines instantly, it's stone. Cobble actually mines the same speed as ores, which is slightly slower normally and doesn't get the instantaneous effect with Efficiency V / Haste II

    Also, this question should be voted higher. From the OP in a comment below: "...I was mostly interested in ways to dig out large swaths of solid rock..."

  • I've found that no matter which mining pattern I used I my diamond finds were barely enough to keep me in diamond pickaxes for mining diamonds. It was a vicious circle. I've started mining with TNT now and it's much faster. Here's how I do it:

    I use the branch mining technique. For a branch off the trunk I'll use 64 TNT and 32 torches. I'll dig a 2-high tunnel off the trunk, placing a torch every 10 blocks in. When I run out of torches I know I'm 320 blocks away from the trunk.

    Now I'll place a block of cobblestone on the ground at the very end with a block of TNT on top. Then I back up while placing cobblestone on the ground only, putting a block of TNT on top of every 5th cobblestone block so there are 4 empty spaces between TNT blocks.

    When I get back to the trunk I set off the TNT and then run along behind the blast placing torches on the wall as I go. When I get to the end I walk back to the trunk mining whatever I see along the way and picking up anything on the ground.

    Each trunk takes me about 30 minutes to dig, blast and mine. I use only a fraction of a diamond pickaxe in the process. I've been mining 12-13 levels up from the bottom and getting 15-20 diamonds per trunk. The most tedious part is collecting the sand to make the TNT. I have a mob trap that I use to collect the gunpowder at night.

    Give it a shot and see what you think, it's working well for me. I have mine cart tack with periodic boosters running along my trunk line to get me back and forth to my storage area quickly.

    Interesting idea, I may try it - I definitely have to agree that my diamond-finding just barely stays ahead of usage. I don't know where people get all these diamonds...

    I usually mine with iron pickaxes. The speed-difference is tiny. Also, enchant your diamond pickaxe to get Unbreakable on it. Makes it last longer.

    How do you find so much gunpowder to make this amount of TNT?

  • I've dug straight down to bedrock as well and at the bottom carved out a 40 long by 20 wide room 4 high. This netted me a full stack of redstone, lots of lava. 2 diamond, lots of coal, almost no iron.

    The straight down to bedrock approach I find is really good for redstone but not much else. I find that in the generated caves there is a lot more ore along the walls. So you really need both I think.

    I've made a waterfall going down my vertical bedrock mine shaft and shoot up to the top with a boat for fast surface access.

    Digging straight down to bedrock mathematically will net you more iron than redstone, since more of the dig has a chance to find iron. Hollowing out an entire room wastes time, so if you're going for efficiency that's definitely not the way to do it. The reason you seem to find more ore in caves is just because there is so much surface area. Overall, however, ore in caves is LESS dense because of all the blocks "wasted" with open air.

    @StrixVaria: No, minerals actually do occur more frequently in/near caves.

    @BlueRaja I'm not taking your word for that unless you have mathematical evidence to back it up. Otherwise I'm attributing it to increased surface area easier access, not increased spawn rate.

    But even if it *is* only easier access, your harvest over time seems higher in caves even if some measure like your harvest over squares passed through is not.

    The size of ore deposits in caves is about half that of when digging, as the ore get replaced with air. That being said, it's cheaper (at least in peaceful) to mine, since it doesn't use up your pickaxe.

  • Dig down to bedrock with a staircase. Then make a room about 10 by 10. Finally branch out on each side of the wall. Pick one side and go with it untill it is to long. Then get another side. Once all four are branched, branch off them. I now have about 15-20 BLOCKS of diamond 20-23 BLOCKS of gold like 30-50 stacks of coal no red (I don't mine it just go around) and 40-45 BLOCKS of iron all totaling about 7 hrs of work

  • This a well covered question already but the technique I personally use isn't listed so I figure I'll add it to the mix. It isn't the technique for strip mining a chunk and extracting absolutely everything but it does expose lots of extra unseen blocks.

    It is much faster for quickly gaining things you want, it's incredibly easy to do, and is also less wearing on your pickaxes.

    Getting down to and up from the mine:

    Use water held up by a sign at the bottom of a 1x1 shaft that is straight down starting up at the surface for dropping to diamond ore levels.
    To make it, dig a 1x3 section (so you don't mine beneath your feet) leave one side open for the drop shaft, fill the middle with cobble, and place ladders in the other shaft.

    The drop can be as great a distance as you want as long as the bottom of it looks like this:

    o = Stone
    X = Dug out
    W = Water
    S = A Wood Sign
    L = Ladder

    o X o L o
    o X o L o
    o X o L o
    o W o L o
    o S o L o
    X X X L X ( This is the mine )
    X X X L X

    The drop is quick and completely safe. I use ladders for the return trip up but, if you prefer, (I think they take too long to make and are unreliable) you can make boat-waterfall ladder for coming back up.


    1: Dig the standard 2x1 tunnels away from your entry point. I personally do this standing at Y: 9 so I occasionally run into unexplored caves but, if you are scared of cave mining, do it at Y:8 or Y:7. I don't suggest going to a lower depth than this because bedrock can get in the way, and ore veins that are beneath your feet will be smaller.

    2: Every 4th block into your tunnel dig the upper blocks in a 1x1 shaft as far as you can reach on both sides of your tunnel. If you see an ore you like, dig the bottom out and go get it!

    The view of walls of your 2x1 tunnel would look like this

    x = dug out
    o = stone
    o o o x o o o x o o o x o o o x o o o x o o o x o o
    o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

    Extra optional step:

    3: If you want to squeeze more out of this type of mine, return once you have finished a good section and bring pieces of TnT. Place them in the back of the 1x1 shafts in the sides of your mine and set them off with Flint n Steel. I don't always do this because making TnT is a pain... but it does work.

    General Mining Tips:

    1: When mining always place torches on the right wall. When you want to come back just turn around and follow the torches that are now on your left. This is a very helpful technique for not getting lost in any mine exploring or digging.

    2: If you have a well enchanted diamond shovel, dig out the sections of dirt you come across. High level shovels obliterate dirt at an insane speed and this typically reveals interesting stuff.

    Hope this helps!

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM