Mining is broken down into several distinct steps. You will need to train the skills for each step or have an alt or friend/corpie help you with them. The steps are Mining, Collection, Refining, Transport and Sale. Some include a manufacturing step but that's further down the line for the average rookie. Lets look at the steps in sequence.
Whether you are mining Ore, Ice or Gas this step is largely the same. Go to a belt or exploration site and activate your miners on the resource. It does get more complex though. The main goal of a miner is to increase the mining yield of his ship. This depends a lot on the ship you fly. Currently, the mining frigate of choice is the Venture. This ship has a great ore hold, bonuses to mining yield and warp core strength for running away when needed. They use mining lasers and/or mining drones. Training to use this frigate is probably your first step in your career. The next step in your career is the Mining Barges. These ships are the Procurer, Retriever and Covetor. Each of these ships has a role. The Procurer is supposed to be tough to kill and suitable for use in dangerous environments like low sec. The retriever is the solo mining barge with a huge ore hold. The Covetor is the fleet option with a small hold but the best yield of the three. Covetors are meant to be supported by other ships. These ships use strip miners. They are better able to handle the larger ores and have bigger ore bays. They use drones to protect themselves from belt rats and are shield tanks. After the mining barges are the main mining ships, Exhumers; the Skiff is the tech 2 version of a Procurer, the Mackinaw is like the Retriever and the Hulk remains the king of mining yield. These ships are very expensive so it will take time to get them but they produce significant yields and so pay themselves back quickly.
There are four basic methods of mining. The first is mining until your hold is full and then going back to the station, dumping the ore and returning to the belt. This suffers from being extremely inefficient but it is secure. No-one gets a chance to steal your ore. The next method is to learn Anchoring to 1 and anchor Giant Secure Containers in the asteroid belt you are mining. Then mine and empty your hold into the can. Come by later with a hauler and collect the ore at leisure. You can put a password on the cans so your can share them with friends. This is also secure but when you get to mining barges the cans are filled in one cycle. Also, the Venture has an ore hold bigger than the available secure containers that you can anchor so you may as well empty into a station. This means you are constantly moving around the belt. You also need to visit each can with a hauler. The third method is to create what are called Jet Cans. These are created when you jettison something into space. Right click on the item and select Jettison. The can will be created beside you with the item/s in it. Its a good idea to name a jetcan after the time it was made. A jetcan can hold over 27,000m3 of stuff and lasts 2 hours in space. You mine and empty your hold into the jet can. Make as many as you need. Then come along with a hauler and empty the jetcans. This method is very efficient time wise but has a drawback. Anyone can come along and take stuff from a jetcan. They are officially stealing and anyone in system will be allowed to attack them. However this is mostly done to provoke a fight and the guy is ready to take you out. You can secure the cans with some combat guards or empty cans quickly so they aren't easily stolen from. However there are many systems where you can use this method without being bothered. The forth and best technique uses the jetcan model but adds in a hauler or orca to collect the ore as soon as the can is full or a threat shows up. This required friends or an alt to manage so solo miners are restricted to the first three methods.
Modulated Strip Miner IIs are an advanced option for miners. They use mining crystals as ammunition to increase the mining yield. You must use the right crystals for the ore you are mining otherwise you will have a worse yield than Strip Miner Is. If you are changing ore regularly use Strip Miner Is or carry all the crystals you need with you.
Deep Core Miners are used only for Mercoxit. This ore spawns only in deep null space. Most rookies wont see this for a long time.
Gas mining is done with gas harvesters. These are turret base modules so they don't fit on a mining barge or exhumer. You need a ship with 5 turret slots to make it worth it. Battlecruisers and battleships are perfect. Gas is only found in low sec, Null sec and wormholes. Not something to train straight away.
The most efficient mining options require you to come along later and collect large amounts of ore. This means you should be training for an industrial ship soon after getting your Venture or barge. The top tier of industrials can manage ~38,000 m3 cargo space so they can clear a jetcan plus some. Its worth getting the small tractor beam too to make collection easier. You will need a top tier industrial to handle the mining output of a Exhumer like a Hulk. They mine enough to fill a jet can very quickly. The ultimate ore collector for high sec work is the orca but they need a lot of skills and money to get into. An orca has a bay especially for ore and a corp hangar as well as its own cargo bay. You can make the orca carry over 170,000 m3 with the right skills and fittings. That saves you trips to the belt and back. Orcas also get bonuses to tractor beams, mining gang links and survey scanners. They are a valuable tool if you have a lot of miners.
Freighters can now collect from jetcans in space. This means they can collect from miners or orcas. The problem though is they are really slow and can't fit a tractor beam. Best have everything in one place for collection. They do become useful to move ore and minerals around once its collected on a station or POS.
To begin with, your refining skills will be pretty poor. This means that you may be better off selling your ore as is. You need to check your refining yield and the current market prices to find out which way you should go. To check your refining yields, select your ore, right click on it and select "Refine". You will be told how many minerals you will get if you choose to refine. Do your calculations. You are wasting time mining the wrong ore and you are wasting effort if you don't get the best price for what you mined.
Each type of asteroid has three sub types. For example, Veldspar comes in normal Veldspar, Concentrated Veldspar and Dense Veldspar. These special Velspars have increased mineral content. Thus Concentrated Veldspar has +5% Tritanium and Dense Veldspar has +10% Tritanium in it. Given the choice you should mine the +10% version first. Learn what type is what in your home system.
Not all stations can refine and some are worse than others. Stations have either no refining, 25% refining or 50% refining. Your skills can take this up to 100%. However all stations (except some in null sec) charge a 5% tax on refining ore. You can reduce the tax amount by doing missions for the corp who owns the station. The Mining missions may be a good option for you here. If you get your skills and corp standings high enough it is possible to get perfect refining in empire stations.
Refining Arrays for POS can only be used in 0.3 and down and are pretty inefficient. They also take time to do their refining. They are really an option only if you are living a long way from any refining stations (eg in a wormhole).
Once you have your minerals or ore, you must sell it. However you will probably find that the out-of-the-way mining system you have chosen does not have an active market. You could sell locally but you'd have to settle for a lower price. For premium prices for your minerals you are better off moving stuff to a trade hub. This is where your industrial does some extra work. Minerals take up less space than ore so you will get more in the hold. However, a week's worth of heavy mining from hulks is going to need an orca or freighter to haul. The freighter is a good option. My obelisk can hold 90 million units of minerals and I haven't trained the skill to 5 yet. A freighter is a long term project since their value is going up a lot at the moment. You could have a go at mining the high sec ore yourself and buying blueprint copies to let you build it. A mining corp should really work towards one.
This is the point of the exercise. You want your money. There are two ways to sell your minerals. You can quick-sell or place a sell order. Quick-sell is when you sell to whatever buy order reaches your current location. If you are in a trade hub then this should be a reasonable amount. However people in a remote station will probably be selling their minerals at well below market rate. To find out which orders affect your current location, right click on the mineral and select "View Market Details". The orders marked in green on the bottom panel affect your location. Sort the panel so the best price is at the top and see what you can get. Quick-sell by right clicking on the mineral and selecting "Sell this item". Check the bottom right of the panel. If it says "<< Simple" then click that button. The screen you should now be on is an immediate sale screen and it will tell you how much you will get for your minerals. Hit the sell button to make the deal.
A better option for a miner is to sell their minerals on a sell order. You will need a couple of levels of the Trade skill to do this. Essentially you will list the minerals as for sale and set a price. Choose a price similar to the minerals being offered on your current station. Someone will come along and buy your minerals at a later time. This method mean you have to wait for the money but you will get a better price for the minerals. See my blog about the market for info on how to list orders. http://eveboffin.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/using-market-without-losing-money.html
The Extra Step - Manufacturing
Some miners make a little extra money by turning their minerals into a product of some kind like a ship. You won't be able to mine everything you need in high sec but the minerals you can't get can be bought at trade hubs. You will need the Industry skill at least to do this. Production Efficiency 5 is needed to avoid wasting materials when building. Consider buying blueprint copies from the contract market to make products from. You want a blueprint with a good Material Level as the ML (also called ME) affects how much material is wasted in the build process. I plan to right a blog all about Production and Industry so stay tuned.
Getting Higher Yields
Every miner wants to get more ore per hour. This is your yield. For rookie miners the easiest way to increase your yield is to get better mining lasers. Tech 2 is best and is reasonably cheap. You can also train extra levels in the ship you are using and fit a Mining Laser Upgrade. Mining barges are a big step forward. You will need to be able to use Strip Miners to use a barge. More levels in barge will put up your yield. When you can get Modulated Strip Miner IIs and mining crystals. The top level is a hulk with tech 2 strip miners, at least one tech 2 Mining Laser Upgrade and tech 2 mining crystals plus tech 2 mining drones. This is where you want to get to.
Ice mining is about reducing the time it takes to get your ice blocks. You don't mine "more" ice per cycle. The same techniques to increase ore mining yield work on Ice mining too. They just have a slightly different effect.
There is one more layer of yield bonuses you can apply to mining but it requires at least 2 people to work. There are leadership skills you can train to provide bonuses to anyone in fleet with you. These are Mining Foreman and Mining Director. The person with the leadership skills needs to be fleet booster and there must be at least one other person in the fleet for the bonuses to work. There are also three gang links and some implants which will provide bonuses as well. If you fit the gang links to an orca which is piloted by a person with all the leadership skills you will do some serious bonus-ing. Strictly speaking an orca is worth having once you have three miners in the fleet. Otherwise you are going to do better putting the orca pilot in a Hulk. However this is a fair way in the future for your beginning character. You are best to ask your corp if they have a fleet leader or orca to help out.
- Don't put your lasers all on the same asteroid. If one laser empties the asteroid the other lasers are wasted.
- Mining lasers and strip miners can be stopped part way through their cycle and will mine a portion of their yield based on how long they ran for.
- You can use a survey scanner to work out how many units of ore are in an asteroid. You can then turn off your miners when you think you have all that is left rather than wait for it to cycle.
- Rats love to shoot mining drones. Pull in your mining drones as soon as you see rats.
- When mining in a group its worth splitting up the field or asteroids in the field so you don't end up doubling up on a asteroid which wastes time and yield.
- Some Exploration sites will offer low sec ores in high sec (or null sec ores in low sec).
- Five Mining Drone IIs work out to about half a strip miner on a hulk.
- Use Giant Secure Containers in your hauler to get extra carrying capacity. For some reason they are bigger on the inside than on the outside.
- If you get close to a Asteroid, your mining drones will use less time travelling.
- Mining in a group with voice comms is a lot more fun than mining alone. You also get to watch belts disappear before your eyes.
- Hulkageddon is a annual competition to kill as many mining ships and industrials as possible. It means people will suicide ships to kill your mining ship for points in the competition. As of June 2012 this has become a year long thing with the Goonswarm Federation offering a bounty of 100 MISK on every 10 exhumers killed.
- Destroyers (particularly the Catalyst) are the favourite ship for ganking mining ships. If you see one enter your belt Get Out Fast.
- Don't leave too much ore lying around in cans. You never know when someone will come along and take it or force you to leave it behind.
- I don't recommend low sec mining to new pilots. Its not so much more profitable than high sec mining. The risk is exponentially higher.
- Rats often drop Metal Scraps. These things have the same size as a unit of minerals but are worth more than megacyte. Each unit refines into 500 Tritanium. Its worth collecting them.