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As a Miner, you dig metal out of the ground. Simple enough, right? Not quite. There are a huge range of minerals that can be mined and not all of them are in any way common. You will find the early days of mining difficult at some points, as the only thing that will give you a skill point is a rare mineral like Gold, Silver, Truesilver or Thorium. But do not despair! If you can survive the early stages, Mining becomes progressively more and more profitable.
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Where to Find Ore
Unlike other resources, minerals cannot be found just anywhere. Look for rocky outcrops, cliff sides and mountain ranges. For example: in Elwynn Forest, some of the best mineral spots can be found along the small cliff that runs from the southwest of Goldshire in a nearly-straight line to the east. Some places like Stonetalon Mountains are naturally conducive to minerals, and are rich with them. Keep an eye out in rocky areas.
Note the location of all large mountains, cliffs, rock islands and the like. Most maps are built with mountains surrounding the borders of the zone. These are almost universally the best places to find minerals.
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Skill Levels Required
Here is a list of the skill levels required to mine each type of ore.
Bronze (created with 1 Tin Bar and 1 Copper Bar): 75
Steel (created by smelting 1 Iron Bar and 1 Coal): 165
Dark Iron: 230
Small Thorium Veins/Deposits: 250
Rich Thorium Deposits: 275
Fel Iron Deposit: 300
Adamantite Vein: 325
Rich Adamantite Vein: 350
Cobalt Node: 350
Khorium Vein: 375
Rich Cobalt Node: 375
Saronite Node: 400
Rich Saronite Node: 425
Titanium Node: 450
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Mining is a perfect pair with Blacksmithing, Jewelcrafting or Engineering, since all three professions are primarily fuelled with ore in one form or another. Various plans may require other materials from time to time, but the vast majority of Blacksmithing/Engineering/Jewelcrafting plans require large quantities of ore. This is particularly true later in the game. For instance, almost all high level Blacksmithing plans require simply metal bars and Primals/Eternals.
With this in mind, it will make Blacksmithing, Jewelcrafting or Engineering considerably cheaper if you pair it with Mining. However, Mining also makes a perfect companion to either Skinning or Herbalism if all you are after is gold. Remember, "there's no trick to making a lot of money if all you want is to make a lot of money." Two gathering professions will rack up gold quickly, but will do little else unless you send the resources you gather to another character for use in a crafting profession.
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This is an Addon that shows you the location of every mineral vein on the map. Using these, it is very easy to plan a path around a zone and pick up every available mineral vein. Make sure the Cartographer_Data and Cartographer_Mining modules are activated.
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The Early Levels: Levels 1-65: Copper
Copper is abundant in every starter zone in the game except the Night Elf zone. Night Elves, head to Darkshore. Everyone else, just look around your starter zone. Leveling to 65 does not take long, but make sure you do it before you leave the starter zone. The last thing you want is to see your first Tin vein and not be able to touch it.
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Levels 65-125: More Copper, Tin, Silver, Bronze
Using the first Tin veins you find, you can smelt Bronze. This will gain you a few levels, but don’t rely on it for too long. Smelting will only take you so far; after a certain point, you gain practically nothing (if anything) from smelting. Tin is fairly common in all post-starter zones (Westfall, The Barrens, Thousand Needles, Redridge Mountains.) Note that the only thing in the entire game that Tin is used for is making Bronze.
Silver, Gold and Truesilver are all quite rare. Finding one will be a chore, but jump on it if you do. You may also find it beneficial to buy some Silver Ore in the Auction Hall and smelt it, then resell it (if you don’t need it for a crafting profession.) This is not recommended, as it is not a permanent solution, but it can help bridge the gap between Silver and Iron faster.
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Levels 125-175: More Tin, Iron, Gold
The best zones for finding all three of these are the Arathi Highlands and Thousand Needles. Run circles around the outer edges of Thousand Needles to find the ore there. Draw a circle around the eastern half of the Arathi Highlands, from Refuge Point and east. There are also several Mithril veins to be found behind Stromgarde Keep. Save this for later.
It is also helpful to buy 25-40 Gold Ore when you reach 155. Smelt them and sell them at the Auction Hall.
The Badlands is also an excellent place to find Iron. Most of the deposits can be found around the edges of the map and surrounding the mesas in the central regions.
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So you’ve gotten past Iron and now you need Mithril, Mithril and more Mithril. Here’s how to get it. Mithril and Truesilver are two of the great hurdles in mining. Finding Truesilver is a nightmare on the best of days and competition for Mithril is usually high. Fortunately, there are some good places to find it that aren’t always crawling with competitors.
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Levels 175-245: Mithril and Truesilver
The Badlands, The Hinterlands, Tanaris and Stonetalon Mountains are some of the best places to find Mithril. It is used in lots of crafting patterns, so make sure you stock up on Mithril even if you aren’t getting skill points for it; Mithril will almost certainly be one of your biggest sellers.
Buy some Truesilver when you hit 230. Finding Truesilver is akin to finding a needle in a haystack; buying and smelting it is much easier and in terms of time invested and profit, is almost certainly cheaper. If you insist on looking for Truesilver yourself, it can usually be found in the dragon canyon in the eastern Badlands.
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Levels 245-275: More Mithril, More Truesilver, Thorium
Felwood, Winterspring, Eastern Plaguelands and Searing Gorge are all good places to find Mithril and Thorium. Competition will be low in Searing Gorge, since many players avoid it.
Thorium can also be found in abundance in Un’Goro crater and the Burning Steppes. Note that Un’Goro is one of the most heavily-farmed areas in the game. However, you can get around this by mining in the Silithid hives to the south.Thorium can also be found in Silithus, but mining here is dangerous and may not be the worth the risk if your character is underpowered.
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Levels 275-300: Thorium
You can now mine Rich Thorium Veins. These are found almost exclusively in Un’Goro, Winterspring and Silithus. Winterspring and Un’Goro crater are much safer to mine in. Keep an eye out for Ooze-covered Thorium Veins in the Silithid Hives. These are dangerous to mine, but have remained largely untouched since the release of Burning Crusade.
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Levels 300-325: Fel Iron
This is found all over Outland, but is extremely abundant in Hellfire Penninsula. The largest concentrations are around the edges of the zone, but there are heavy concentrations around The Legion Hold, Hellfire Citadel and Falcon Watch.
Note that from here on out, smelting will get you virtually nothing in terms of skill points. There is no longer any point in buying ore to smelt unless you need it for an alloy such as Felsteel.
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Levels 325-350: More Fel Iron, Adamantite
Like all of the Outland ores, Adamantite can be found in every zone. It is particularly plentiful in Nagrand, along the southern ridges. Fel Iron and Adamantite can also be found in Zangarmarsh, though it is only found around the periphery. This makes mining it difficult, since you must make a sweep of the entire zone to find it.
If you have a flying mount, Adamantite is also plentiful on the Netherwing Ledge, though mining here is extremely dangerous due to the giant Dragonmaw troops wandering around.
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Levels 351-375: Rich Adamantite, Khorium
Khorium is rare no matter where you go. There are only two Khorium Veins in each zone at any given time. The best hope of finding one is to find their spots on your Cartographer-enhanced map and run the distance between each of them with a flying mount.
Rich Adamantite can be found in Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley with fair frequency. Again, for those willing to brave the Dragonmaw Ascendants, the Netherwing Ledge offers superb mining at extreme risk. Mine naked so you avoid getting your gear crushed. The Netherwing Ledge also offers other mining advantages. Not only can you gain reputaiton with the Netherwing for doing their mining daily quest, you can gain skill points as well. The risks are great (watch out for those Ascendants) but if you go naked, you needn't worry about your repair bill.
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Levels 350-400: Cobalt, Rich Cobalt
Being a started ore, Cobalt can be found in large amounts in both of the starter zones (Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord.) Like most ore, it is usually found around the periphery of the zones. Rich Cobalt can also be found in the starting zones with fair frequency. If you wish, Rich Cobalt can take you all the way to 400, though it’s good to get some variety in. Rich Cobalt can also be found in abundance in Zul’Drak.
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Levels 400-450: Saronite, Rich Saronite, Titanium
Sholazar Basin is, hands down, the best place to mine Saronite. There are two paths, one along the outer edges of the zone, the other in between the pillars and the lake in the center. Both routes offer a high number of Saronite and Rich Saronite deposits. Note that you must be 425 to mine Rich Saronite.
Titanium, like Khorium, is found rarely throughout Northrend. If you see one, grab it.
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Minerals are always in great demand, particularly the Northrend minerals. The most popular, by far, is Saronite. It is invaluable to Jewelcrafters because when it is prospected, it gives the highest chance of finding a rare (blue) gem, with the best cost effectiveness. One of your quickest routes to being rich is to farm Saronite, then sell it on the Auction House. Doing so will net you a huge profit. Alternatively, you could find a Jewelcrafting friend who is willing to prospect your ore for you. This allows you access to the gems your ore would have yielded, only without having to pay for them.
The bottom line is that Mining, when properly used, can be extremely profitable. Get out there and start Mining!