The Mining Laser is the primary tool of a miner. It's used to cut mineral and metal fragments off of asteroids. These fragments can be collected via the cargo scoop or drones. A Refinery is required to process the fragments and cargo space is required to store the material in sale-able form.
The mining laser cuts chunks of asteroid off at a rate determined by the amount of mining laser power applied to the asteroid. Thus, more mining lasers will result in more chunks in the same period of time. Once cut off the chunks can be retrieved by cargo scoop or limpet drone. A refinery module is required to process asteroid chunks into saleable commodities.
— In-Game Description
As of 1.5/2.0, mining lasers are only available in classes 1 and 2. Turreted mining lasers were added in The Commanders v2.3 update; These turreted mining lasers only function as full turrets when under the control of a Multicrew Gunner.
Despite being able to cut into asteroids, mining lasers are very ineffective in combat, suffering from very short maximum range and extremely low damage and armour penetration. It is thus advised to have either strong shields and thrusters to be able to outrun an attacker or to other weapons mounted to one or more hardpoints.
A Class 2 mining laser mines faster than a Class 1 laser but consumes more energy.
Mining Lasers will not be obsoleted by the upcoming Beyond Chapter Four changes to mining. Rather, they will continue to serve as a basic mining tool, whilst the advanced tools will allow experienced miners to maximize their mining gains.
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