Unless you’re brand new to the game, you are probably already aware that Minecraft is going to involve some mining (and probably even a new player will get that impression) As such it should be no surprise that the number of mining methods and systems is incredibly vast and some can become quite complex. Still it’s worth exploring some of the more common methods.
The answer to that is quite simple; when you first start the game, it’s the only way to get the resources you need to do pretty much anything. Now once you’re more advanced you can set up generators for cobblestone, you can make charcoal (which is essentially coal) from wood and you can set up farms for food and even things like iron, redstone, and glowstone, however when you’re just starting, such resources are somewhat more difficult to make in these ways (as most of these things require a good deal of resources to get set up) and so mining is going to be the best way to get you the things that you need.
How to Mine
How you choose to do your mining will largely depend upon who you are and what resources you’re looking for. I personally use a multi-mining method that combines two techniques called tunneling and pin-wheeling respectively, but you could use whatever method works best for you. Because there are so many different methods of mining I can’t possibly cover them all (at least not in a reasonable amount of time) and so I’ll go over a few common types and how to get started with them.
Staircase – This is a simple easy method that involves digging a staircase down through the ground until you get to the layer that you’re wanting to mine at (layer 11 is considered the richest in everything and is right at the lava layer so lava usually won’t be encountered above you). This method allows you a way up and down that costs you no resources and allows you to safely gather the materials you are digging through. Once you’re at the bottom (or as far down as you want to go) you can use another method to keep you on that layer simply using the staircase as an access, or you can go back up and dig another staircase. These can even be layered for maximum coverage.
Vertical Mining – As you may have gathered from the name this involves digging straight down, however it’s best to do this by digging at least a 1x2 hole rather than a 1x1 hole. In Minecraft you should never, ever dig straight down. The likelihood of the block below you opening up into a large cavern or a pool of lava is very high potentially causing fatal damage to your character and loss of valuable equipment. Basically you want to dig down to the layer you’re trying to get to or even all the way to bedrock if you want collecting any resources you find along the way. Be sure to take plenty of ladders or vines with you to place on the blocks so that you can get back up. Once you’ve reached the layer you want to mine on you can choose your favorite horizontal mining method or just dig another hole nearby.
Tunneling – Once you’re at the layer you wish to mine at, you start digging tunnels and just keep going straight for as far as you can. This is a highly efficient mining method as every two blocks you dig out reveals 4 blocks that you’ve never seen before. This does however often result in really long tunnels making for a long walk back and assuming you don’t want to encounter mobs on the way back, it’ll end up using several torches as well. The tunnels don’t have to be only one block wide and in fact can be as many blocks wide as you’d like. I personally do four three block wide tunnels leading out from my shaft in all four directions and typically go out 384 blocks (two stacks of torches placing them on the left wall every 3 squares [to compensate for having none on the right side of the wall]).
Pin-Wheeling – This method builds off of four main tunnels and digs a series of side tunnels all going in the same direction. For example my main tunnel is three wide (to allow for a minecart system) has torches every three blocks on the left and has a side tunnel every three blocks on the right. This means there’s a space of two blocks between each of these side tunnels which is extremely thorough (meaning I’ll get all the ore in a chunk), but not as efficient (meaning I dig through more stone/dirt/gravel) as it would be using a wider spacing (3-6 squares between). If viewed from above this would create a “pinwheel” pattern hence the name.
Quarrying – This method is very much like the real life method and involves digging a large pit layer by layer to recover the resources leaving blocks along the side to form a staircase so you can get up and down. Such a project will typically yield many resources including a lot of cobblestone and dirt and could take a few days of 24/7 digging to complete. This however isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the quarry doesn’t necessarily loose its usefulness once it’s completely dug out. It can be used afterward to make underground or underwater bases, provide access to uncovered caverns and resources, or even serve as the foundation point for large projects like a huge skyscraper which can be made much taller if you’re building from bedrock up to sky-level. Often times because of their enormous size compared to other mining methods, a quarry will run into lava pools or caverns which doesn’t necessarily stop your progress, but it can often times delay it. This is a great method for getting lots of cheap materials while also picking up many more valuable ones.
While it may seem like a lot of work, mining is definitely a rewarding endeavor in Minecraft. If you’re low on resources, need a flat location to build a major project, or just like the challenge of designing highly thorough and efficient mining systems, definitely try your hand at mining in your N3rd C0rn3r.