To be able to fly a mining barge you need to have the following skills: Mining at level IV, Science at level IV, Astrogeology at level III, Mining Frigate at level III and industry at level V. After training these skills and getting enough ISK you can buy the Mining Barge skill and train it to level I.
The only skill that is specific to ice harvesting is the skill Ice Harvesting. When you are able to fly a mining barge you also need to train this skill to level I to be able to fit Ice Harvester I modules. If you train it to level V you can then fit the tech 2 version Ice Harvester II. You should also push your Mining Upgrade skill to level IV to be able to use Ice Harvesting Upgrade modules.
Which Mining Barge to Use?
The three mining barges all have their distinctive advantages when it comes to ice harvesting, below you can see the traits of each barge. The Procurer has a usable cargohold (15.000m3) and is able to field a great tank. The Retriever has a huge cargohold (35.000 m3 at max skills) but has a weak tank. The Covetor has a tiny cargohold (7.000 m3) and a paper thin tank, but it has by far the greatest yield.
Which of these barges you use will depend on your situation. If you are semi-afk solo mining in a high sec belt I would advice using the Procurer to be able to tank against possible ganking attempts. If you are mining in a group in null-sec with Rorqual support and active hauling, then using the Covetor is hands down the best idea. I would personally only use the Retriever is rare situations were getting the biggest cargo each trip made sense, such as mining ice in a system with no station.
How to Fit an Ice Harvesting Barge.
What you need to think about is what you will be using the barge for. If you want to maximize yield in a Covetor you fit only Ice Harvesting Upgrades into your low slots. If you want to field a heavy tank then you place tanking modules in the low and mid slots such as Damage Control and Shield Hardeners. You can see a few anti-gank mining fits here which are set up for ore mining with some extra yield, if you exchange the modules for ice harvesting modules you get the same results.
Where is all the ice?
Opposite to ore mining, the ice that you can harvest does no appear in static belts. To find ice belts you must use the on-board scanner that every ship has installed. On your HUD is a button called scanner, press that and then press the probe scanner button that appears. A window pops up with scan results which might contain a few cosmic signatures and anomalies. If there is an active ice belt in the system it will appear in the scan results and you can warp straight to it.
Also ice belts only appear in specific systems, to find a system that spawns ice belts you can use Dotlan to help you find them.
The later tier of ice harvesting vessels are the exhumers. They are the ultimate miners maximizing the abilities of the mining barges. Training for an exhumer is however a time intensive activity and should only be done if you intend to become a professional miner.
To be able to fly an exhumer you need the Exhumer skill at level I. To be able to train that skill you need to take Spaceship Command to level IV, Astrogeology to level V and finally Mining Barges to level V. This will take a few weeks of skill training to accomplish. Below are the traits for each exhumer.
As you can see the additional bonus you get from upgrading from a barge to an exhumer is not that great for the total yield. However, the exhumers can be fitted with better modules and in the case of the Skiff, it can be fitted to tank nullsec rats and be a really hard nut to crack for high sec gankers. And as with the mining barges I would personally only use the Skiff or Hulk depending on the mining scenario.
Ice Harvesting Drones
Drones designed to harvest ice are available to increase your potential profit from ice harvesting. These drones require the skill Ice Harvesting Drone operation I for you to operate them, with the tech 2 version requiring that skill to be at level V in addition to Ice Harvesting Drone Specialization at level I.
Each level of those skills reduce the cycle time of the drone, with Ice Harvesting Drone Operation reducing it by 5% for each level and Ice Harvesting Drone Specialization reducing it by 2% for each skill level.
These drones require 50Mb bandwith which means that of the mining barges only the Covetor can operate these drones, while every exhumer can operate a single drone.
Your skills, modules and ships are not the only things that will increase your ice harvesting profits. Certain cybernetic mining implants are available on the market that will reduce the ice harvesting cycle time by up to 5%. These mining implants can be fitted into implant slot 9 and are called Inherent Implants ‘Yeti’ Ice Harvesting with three different version being available.
Is that all there is to Ice Harvesting in Eve Online?
Yes and no. This guide has now gone over the stats, ships and skills needed to be a successful ice harvester. There are however other things cannot be learned from a written guide and must be experienced.
There is also room to improve on your ice harvesting profits by joining a mining fleet which is the scope of another guide. In my Fleet mining guide I go over what stats and skills are needed to boost a mining fleet successfully and give some tips on how to run it smoothly.
Now if you liked this ice harvesting guide then be sure to share it with your friends and allies and feel free to check out my other Eve Online guides.