Guest contributor: Cmdr Mack Winston, East India Company Mining Division
It’s no secret that rapid colonisation of the Colonia Nebula is underway. Not long after Jaques Station arrived in the region, there was a huge influx of people making the long voyage from the Bubble. The first major settlement constructed was Colonia Hub, and this was rapidly followed by a clutch of other settlements in the heart of the Colonia Nebula.
This construction bonanza was largely fuelled by long-distance supply efforts, but now the groups that are establishing themselves in Colonia are increasingly able to refine, process and synthesise the materials to be found in the Nebula. This has lead to what is traditionally known as a gold rush – even though it’s not actually gold that’s in demand.
This, coupled with the large number of pristine mining resources that are scattered all over the region, has made Colonia extremely attractive to miners. With the influx of new colonists arriving with the Christmas Carriers Convoy, it’s highly likely that the demand for mined materials will remain high for quite some time.
Independent miners in the Bubble are used to cherry-picking high value metals and materials–the “three Ps” – Painite, Platinum and Palladium–for sale on the open market. While these materials remain valuable in the Colonia region (and are often called for in quantity, such as the Colonia Council’s request for large quantities of Palladium still fresh in every Colonia miner’s mind) today the money is in contract mining.
A number of useful industrial materials are in particularly high demand by contract, and contracts with values exceeding 50,000Cr per tonne are not uncommon. Describing the most in-demand materials by contract shows just why some of these materials are currently so sought-after:
- Bromellite (beryllium oxide): An important source of beryllium, a material widely used in structural alloys, precision instrumentation and in nuclear applications.
- Lithium hydroxide: Used as a source of lithium metal, used to manufacture greases, carbon dioxide scrubbers for spacecraft and batteries.
- Hydrogen peroxide: An oxidiser used mainly in chemical synthesis, a propellant in small, cheap propellant powered thrusters, and as a general disinfectant in medical facilities.
- Methanol monohydrate: A precursor to a many of the synthesised organic chemicals that are much-used in everyday society.
It isn’t just chemical precursors that are in strong supply. Building means vast quantities of metals are required, and while the builders generally source their own supply of structural metals from the planet that’s being built upon, lucrative contracts frequently appear for other metals:
- Praseodymium: A metal used chiefly for magnetic alloys. Every piece of machinery that uses motors or electromagnets being deployed in Colonia requires this metal.
- Osmium: A metal used in industrial alloys where hardness is required.
- Samarium: Another metal used in magnetic alloys, usually where higher temperature working is required. It also finds use as a catalyst and in certain ceramics.
Colonia Hub currently has the most mining contracts available. Both Jaques and the Colonia Council have a strong call for mined materials there, and have been seen to offer a dozen high-value contracts each to individual miners – but only to those that they can trust.
The Security Situation
Unfortunately, the security situation for miners is not ideal, particularly at the richest mining sites. Colonia has shown great promise for the lawful who want to start a new life – but has also shown as much promise for criminals who seek to evade the law back home. It has not taken long for the lawless to set up a presence in Colonia, with half a dozen pirate gangs already causing headaches for the local security services.
There is some good news for contract miners: pirates are generally unwilling to attack contract miners, since they cannot redeem the contracts with the goods reported as ‘stolen’ – making a bellyful of mined bromellite nearly worthless to a pirate. Many miners working the ice rings have reported that while undesirables have scanned their ships, few attacks have been made. Miners should remain alert, however, especially if they are carrying out a contract for goods with significant open-market value, or if a high-value mineral such as low temperature diamonds or painite is discovered while fulfilling a contract.
Fortunately help is at hand. The Colonia Militia have a growing fleet which can aid the security services, and Militia vessels are often seen in resource extraction sites that the local system security does not yet patrol. Commanders of larger mining ships are advised to carry ship launched fighters, and to launch the fighter before mining operations begin rather than waiting for an attack. Smaller vessels are advised to ensure some hard points are dedicated to defensive weaponry.
With the pristine reserves available in the region, it’s often possible to fulfil contracts for the higher-value metals outside of the richest resource extraction sites, and this will greatly reduce the chance of attack, although at the cost of extraction speed.