The current despawning mechanics of anomalies/signatures, coupled with the low profit of mining and the cumbersomeness of mining operations, lead to ore anomalies piling up in empty systems, reducing the opportunities for mining in w-space.
The current mechanics for ore sites in w-space are as follows: The sites will remain indefinitely in a system unless someone has warped to the system. Then, around 20 minutes later, sleeper NPCs will spawn (the quantity depending on the type of site). After 3-4 days, during the downtime period, the site will despawn. If no one warps to the site, the site doesn’t despawn.
Mining itself is cumbersome due to the volume of the ore. From the three mining barges, only the Retriever can hold a decent amount of ore (around 25k m3), while the other two can hold a lot less. That means that they have to either jettison it and pick it up with another ship or do trips back and forth. This process can be supported with the help of industrial ships or bigger ships (like an Orca). Overall, the process, if done in the system where one lives, is bearable. When doing it in a foreign system, it’s not.
One of the defining mechanics of w-space is the mass limit of wormholes. Many wormholes have a max mass of 2,000,000,000kg. Some, like statics going to k-space may 50% more than that, while others, going from w-space to C1 in example, may have half of that.
The current prices of ores are not great. Only one has a decent price, with the next in the list having half its value. That means we are talking about between 6.5m and 12m per hour of mining with decent skills on a Retriever. One particular ore is double than that.
Unconfirmed factor: The spawning/despawning mechanics are tied to the w-space class. In example, an ore site that is despawned from a C2 can only spawn in another C2. This is something that I have observed, but I don’t have full confirmation. This leads to further stagnation as some WH classes are a lot less popular than others, leading to further anomaly accumulation.
Combining All Factors
When combining all factors, then we see the problem. Mining is not highly profitable, but it’s still worth doing it, especially for a few ores, which can then be compressed at base to be hauled to k-space. However, mining in a foreign system is very risky for various reasons.
First, mining takes a considerable amount of time compared to running combat sites, which increases the chance that one will be discovered.
Second, because there are not many ore sites, it basically takes two warps to get to the mining ships. One to get to the site, another to warp to the ore, as it can be bookmarked.
Third, because of the low profitability, one has to mine several hours to overcome the cost of potentially losing the mining ship(s).
Fourth, because of the volume of the ore, there has to be some sort of hauling system in place, which is going to be either very vulnerable ships or very juicy targets.
On top of this, mining barges are going to be equipped with higgs anchor rigs, which indirectly increase their survivability. That means that their mass is going to be around 40m kg. For wormholes on the lower end of mass, that means few trips before the mass of the WH reaches its maximum, amplifying the need to have some system to haul the ore.
Conclusion of the Combined Factors
Mining in a foreign system is almost never done. It’s too risky, too cumbersome and not profitable enough considering the effort and risk. This means that the sites don’t even get triggered, so they don’t despawn. That leads to sometimes having to wait up to four weeks to see a single ore site in the home system. Combat anomalies are constantly done in foreign systems because, while the risk is still there, they don’t take much time, there’s no effort with the hauling (except having to drop an MTU) and they are highly profitable. The sites are done, they despawn when done and respawn somewhere else. It keeps the cycle going. Ore sites don’t go through this.
Implement a hard respawn timer on ore sites in w-space. They spawn during maintenance on day 1 and despawn during the maintenance of day X (4th day is good in my opinion). This will lead to more opportunities for mining and a better flow of content, as otherwise it is stagnant as the sites just pile up eternally in systems where no one will mine.