Mining Efficiently in Minecraft

In the game Minecraft, mining is an incredibly useful practice that gives you a fast (though challenging) means of obtaining strong minerals such as iron, redstone, and diamond. You can mine in a number of ways, so use whichever method suits you best.

These mining tips aren't strict guidelines. Try your own methods, too.

Cave mining

Cave mining is challenging yet fruitful. To start, you must find a large cave — perhaps while working on another mine or exploring. If you can find a large cave, you have a useful resource at your disposal.

Caves are generally very dark — and in Minecraft, darkness means monsters! Always be on your guard, carry weapons (and perhaps armor), and light up the cave with torches:

Lighting your way in a cave adventure
Lighting your way in a cave adventure

Cave mining lets you obtain many scattered resources without wearing out your tools trying to plow through stone. However, caves can sometimes be deadly labyrinths, and you may lose your items if your avatar dies. You have to decide whether the payoff in resources is worth the risk of losing them.

Cave mining tips

When mining in a cave, simply light the way and skim the walls for minerals you can use. Iron ore is common, but keep an eye out for it to collect it, anyway. If you can mine deep enough, you may find useful materials such as redstone, gold, and diamond. However, you may also come across lava — the bane of careless miners. Lava flows slowly and destroys items (and you!), so avoid it and ensure that your precious ores don't fall anywhere near it.

Ravines and canyons

Sometimes, while exploring or mining, you come across ravines. These narrow, deep gaps can appear underground or on the surface. Although ravines can contain lots of lava and monsters and are cumbersome to navigate, they expose a lot of surface area and are useful for finding minerals.

If you enjoy mining and spend most of your time using a pickaxe, build a little rest area underground. Your house doesn't have to be located on grass.

Branch mining

If you're new to Minecraft and you don't yet have the weaponry necessary to brave a cavern, branch-mining is an effective way to obtain lots of stone and minerals. Follow these steps to dig a branch mine:

  1. Dig your way underground.

    Dig any way you want, just do not dig straight down; you might fall into a pit, or into lava.

    At the bottom of every world is a layer of unbreakable bedrock. Ores in Minecraft are most commonly located only a few blocks above this layer, so dig until your character's y-coordinate is 13 or so. (Press F3 to see this value.)

  2. Dig a tunnel.

    The smallest tunnel that your character can fit into is one block wide and two blocks tall. Use torches to light the area, or else your tunnel will attract unwanted guests.

  3. Build more tunnels that branch off from the first one.

    By building extra tunnels that split off from the main route, you can look for ores over a large area. Position the tunnels two blocks apart to be able to inspect a large surface area and not miss anything (see the following figure).

    Checking a large surface area
    Checking a large surface area

Branch mining is effective because you can acquire a lot of ores efficiently. However, this type of mining consumes many tools because of the volume of stone you dig through, and produces much more cobblestone than valuables. Branch mining is a helpful method if you have patience, and a project in which you can invest your fortune of cobblestone.

Staircase mining

In the staircase method, you dig deeply and quickly to search for caves, find a suitable spot for a branch mine, search for minerals en route to destinations, or simply build an attractive staircase.

Descend only one block at a time, or else you can't get back up. The following figure shows a staircase, which requires a minimal amount of work.

Descending a staircase in a mine
Descending a staircase in a mine

You can craft stair blocks (wooden stairs, cobblestone stairs, and others) to make the staircase's ascension less taxing (your character becomes hungry when jumping too many stairs). You can also raise the ceiling of your staircase to make your descent faster and less cramped.

Quarry mining

A quarry is the simplest type of mining, and digging one is a useful way to gather lots of cobblestone — and to ensure that you don't miss any materials. Simply dig a rectangle out of the ground, and then another one under it, and so on, until you have a sizeable hole from which you've unearthed every possible resource. Build a stairwell or ladder to exit and reenter the quarry. The following figure shows a classic quarry.

A classic quarry, with vines for ascending and descending
A classic quarry, with vines for ascending and descending

Although quarries produce lots of materials and can be mined safely, digging one requires great patience and generally isn't advisable. However, if you take that route, you can easily repurpose quarries into underground buildings.

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