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I've recently started playing Minecraft. Aside from all the building I've been doing, I think I've spent more time mining than necessary for rarer items. I realize I won't find diamonds on the surface, but I've spent hours underground to find one stone deposit of it.

Obviously, some of the better items are further down but is there a point to where you can get mass items from a certain block level? Say if I mine about 20 blocks down, can I expect to find more coal and iron? I've also learned that you can find villages in your map, do these areas have high item yield?

So for a beginner, what should I be doing to yield more items when mining? I only seem to get a ton of coal, cobblestone, and a little bit of iron each time.

  • Should I be mining near water?
  • Should I find a village and mine near it? (Do areas around villages yield more?)
  • How far down can I start to expect to find better items?
  • Does it matter if I mine during the day or night?
  • Should I use TNT near deposits or strictly stick to the pick axe?

Any questions I haven't listed here, and any other tips for a beginner Minecraft player is greatly appreciated! I'd also like to note that I'm playing on the Xbox One, if that matters.

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Ok, I'll address the easy ones first:

Should I be mining near water?

For small bodies of water it makes no real difference one way or the other. That said, you have fewer mineable levels available if you're beneath an Ocean or Deep Ocean, so you may cut into some of the ore distribution ranges if you mine near Oceans. This will generally only affect Coal and Iron though.

Should I find a village and mine near it?

Again, the presence of a village makes no real difference to the underground ore distribution.

Does it matter if I mine during the day or night?

Yes and no. The time of day has zero impact on ore distribution. However, you will find it easier to mine during the night because you will encounter fewer enemies. During the day (unless it's raining) enemies will only spawn underground, whereas at night they will spawn underground and on the surface. Because there is a limit to the number of mobs that can be spawned, you'll run into fewer enemies underground at night time due to the greatly increased area in which they can spawn.

Should I use TNT near deposits or strictly stick to the pick axe?

Do not use TNT to mine. It's expensive and you'll destroy a considerable portion of your yield each time.

How far down can I start to expect to find better items?

I'm assuming a definition here; I'm assuming that "items" means "ore".

With that said, here is a nice graph of ore distributions in vanilla Minecraft (credit goes to Reddit user cryzed- for this graph):

Ore distribution graph for Vanilla 1.7.10

Disclaimer: this graph is based on version 1.7.10, so may not be accurate for 1.8+.

It's a little hard to see on the shrunk down version of the graph, but I'll go through the gist of it and you can click through to a much larger version if you like.

A quick note on terminology here; "level" means "blocks above bedrock". So "level 5" means "5 blocks above bedrock".

  • Coal Ore: You'll run into tons of this at most levels. It's most common between 5 and 46 levels above bedrock (and consistently so), but you can find it at almost any height. It gets much less common above level 58.

  • Iron Ore: As with coal, you'll find this at most levels, it's most common between 5 and 51 levels above bedrock, then drops off rapidly until level 63. You can't find it above level 63.

  • Redstone Ore: Redstone has a much narrower band than Coal or Iron, spawning between levels 1 and 15 only. It's most common between levels 5 and 13.

  • Gold Ore: Gold is most common between levels 5 and 29, and cannot be found above level 31. It's common enough that you should still find a fair amount of it (but Redstone is ~6.5 times more abundant).

  • Lapis Lazuli Ore: Lapis is most common between levels 10 and 21, tapering off gradually until level 30, above which it cannot be found. It's slightly less common than gold.

  • Diamond Ore: Diamond peaks between levels 5 and 13. It's slightly more abundant between 5 and 8 than 11 to 13, however you'll find frequent lava lakes around level 10, so the 11-13 band is much safer to mine in.

  • Emerald Ore: Emerald is a funny one. It can only be found in the various types of Extreme Hills biomes, and only spawns in single block veins. If you're based in an Extreme Hill-type biome, you'll find a reasonable amount of it, and it has roughly the same spawn range as gold (5-31), but it's still not common. The easiest way I've found to mine Emeralds is to find natural cave systems in Extreme Hills and just explore the sub-30 levels looking for exposed blocks.

Another way to increase your mining yields is to use a pickaxe enchanted with either Fortune I, Fortune II or Fortune III. These enchants give a 33/25/20% chance to drop an extra 2/3/4 items respectively (yes, Fortune III procs less than Fortune I, but still works out better than I or II).

For mining strategies, refer to What's the most efficient mining strategy? for some good tips.

  • 1
    Which means that other new players may also be curious to what I mean by "levels", so it's definitely something that should be clarified. I've made the edit now, so hopefully that alleviates any potential confusion :) – JonK Oct 26 '15 at 20:41
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    It's worth noting that the Y-level distribution of ores here is for vanilla. It doesn't matter for the OP, but modded players will need to open a new question since it's frequently changed. – Daenyth Oct 27 '15 at 12:25
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    @C-dizzle Yes you can. Swords break spider webs relatively quickly, but running water destroys webs on contact - so if you have a large area of webs, dump a bucket of water nearby and you'll clear quite a lot of them in one go. – JonK Oct 27 '15 at 13:46
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    @C-dizzle You want shears for cobwebs. The shears don't loose durability cutting spiderwebs (swords loose double for cobwebs what they do in combat) and drop string. (Though yeah, to clear out the massive collection around a cave-spider spawner, water is more efficient) – LindaJeanne Oct 27 '15 at 15:52
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    @C-dizzle - Also note that when mining/spelunking at lower levels, it's useful to bring along a) a bucket of water, and b) some logs (or planks). The bucket of water can be used as a way to make large lava lakes safer to mine around (by turning them into obsidian), or as a temporary way to avoid falling damage when dropping down a tall crevice (as a waterfall). Planks are the building block (pun!) of a lot of useful items, including a workbench, spare pickaxes/swords, ladders and torches. – Robotnik Oct 28 '15 at 3:28
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This is quite a subjective question but in terms of mining for rare items there are two main techniques you should try:

  1. Cave exploration

Find the entrance to a cave somewhere in the world. Bring a sword, a few pickaxes, a furnace, a crafting table, wood, coal, armour, a bucket of water and plenty of torches. Explore the cave, mining and lighting the way as appropriate. Press F3 on your keyboard to see your coordinates. (Edit: I didn't see that you're playing on console. For Xbox, you need to craft a map to see your coordinates. This is crafted with paper and a compass). The Y coordinate represents how high up you are in the world. In order to find diamond you should be below Y coordinate 16. If the cave network you're exploring doesn't go down that far, don't worry. Simply find another cave. In the vast majority of cases however, the cave network will extend down to around level 10, where the big lava lakes spawn. This method may not net you many diamonds but the benefit is you can find all the resources you can mine on the way down, including, but not limited to, redstone, coal, gold, iron and lapis lazuli.

  1. Strip/branch mining

This is a specific mining technique designed for gaining a high yield of diamond. The disadvantage is that it is very boring and takes a long time. The basic principle is to mine a staircase down to level 12, and then start mining in branches to your left and right. This allows you to essentially explore a large tunnel by only mining a few blocks. A detailed explanation can be found here.

As to your other questions:

  • Mining near water makes no real difference. Probably a bad idea to mine underneath an ocean in case you get lost and need to mine a staircase upwards.
  • Villages again make no difference. They're good for trading if you can find emeralds and you can get a good amount of food from the farms but in terms of mining they make no difference whatsoever.
  • See above. Level 16 and below for diamond, ~35 and below for anything that isn't iron or coal.
  • Day/night makes little difference as it is dark underground and monsters will spawn at all times. At night, there may be less mobs underground since they are spawning above ground as well, and there is a cap for the number of mobs that are allowed to exist at once. It follows that there should be more mobs underground during the day. However, this is unlikely to make a huge difference, so be prepared to fight at all times.
  • Do not use TNT. Blocks of TNT can destroy the blocks you're trying to mine, and will result in a very low yield of materials. It's also very expensive to use for mining as each block requires 5 gunpowder. Stick to the pick.

    Finally, if you want a lot of resources, the Fortune enchantment on your pickaxe could be of use. When a pick is enchanted with Fortune, Coal, Iron, Redstone, Lapis Lazuli and Diamond ores will drop more of their respective item per block when mined. If you want a pick to last longer so you can keep mining, the Unbreaking enchantment is useful. You may also want to look at Efficiency, which increases your mining speed.

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Unfortunately no matter how far down you go the game will not generate more of a certain ore within a certain area. However you can maximize your output of ores by different strategies. For iron or coal or redstone, go caving and you can easily find stacks. For lapis and gold and diamonds and emeralds, strip mining will be your best choice, you can also find many other ores while doing so. Another advice to you would be that if you find a diamond ore while strip mining, no more will spawn in that chunk, so stop mining in that chunk, you won't find any more diamonds in it. Carry lots of torches, lots of food, and lots of iron pickaxes. (Enchanting them with efficiency helps too.) Hope this helps.

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Mining on the console versions of Minecraft isn't much different from mining on the PC version.

The location or time does not matter at all, ores are generated randomly using a few minor rules for their occurrence:

  • There are less ores right at the surface
  • There are more common ores (iron & coal) around the middle between bedrock and the surface
  • The deeper you go, the rarer the ores will get:
    • Diamonds are found very deep, around the height where natural lava fills up the cave
    • A little bit above that you find: Lapis Lazuli, Redstone and Gold

Note: I don't know if there are any differences on the actual Y-level of the ores, but it seems very consistent around the web (Sources: http://minecraft360.wikia.com/wiki/Ore, http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Ore)

Never, ever use TNT!!!

TNT explosions have the nature of all explosions in the game: They destroy blocks and drops!
It doesn't matter how much TNT you use or how far away/near the ore you put it, it will eventually destroy your ore.
A TNT explosion might seem to drop all destroyed blocks, but it doesn't: It only has a chance of 25% of dropping the block as an actual item and all items around it will get destroyed (it deals damage to the drops and thus destroys them, much like fire or a cactus does).
(Source: http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Explosion)

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