The person in charge of bringing Fang Zhao to the service grounds was Colonel Edmund. He was a solemn-looking middle-aged man who did not talk or laugh much. Edmund was the direct deputy of the highest-ranking officer in the Baiji base, Lieutenant General Shanta.
Edmund was over 80 years of age, but that was only considered middle age in the New Era. However, in his heart, Edmund knew that it would be hard for him to get promoted any further. Even if the base was extended and developed well, he might not necessarily make a push for promotion.
There was an internal saying: After passing 80 years of age, there are basically no more chances to get promoted. Furthermore, Edmund did not have much of a strong family background. If not because he had followed Shanta closely, he might not have even been where he was today.
Knowing that he had reached the age where he could no longer climb, Edmund had been considering. After this year was over, he would transfer to civilian work. Like many of his comrades, he would return home, spending the later half of his life in a governmental institution. Maybe there would even be a chance for him to climb there.
Shanta knew about Edmund's plans. With such a competent subordinate leaving, Shanta had given him this chance to appear on-screen more. Perhaps this would benefit him later on when he changed his profession.
Therefore, Edmund regarded this opportunity with high importance. Even if he used to despise celebrities, in front of Fang Zhao and Kevin Lin, there were rare smiles on his usually grave face, and the pressure people felt in his presence was much fainter.
A motorcade left the base. Inside a car in the middle of the motorcade, Edmund was explaining the mining area to Fang Zhao and Kevin Lin.
"Currently, we have three mining sites: two basic mines and one power-source mine. The materials from the basic mines are used mainly for construction. The ores from the power-source mines provide energy. For the basic mining site, we can adopt an automated system that doesn't require much manpower. As for the power-source mining site, automated systems are of no use. Apparatuses might suffer interference, and excavating machinery might result in some large damages. Therefore, in mining sites where we are unable to use machinery or equipment, we have to make use of manpower. That is where conscripts come in. Now, we are heading to the power-source mine."
On-screen, Edmund did not show any signs of nervousness, but Fang Zhao could feel that Edmund was tensed—he just wasn't showing it. Fang Zhao could also guess Edmund's thoughts. Great-Grandfather and Great-Grandmother Fang had talked a lot about the military, and given Fang Zhao's own previous history, it was not hard for him to guess.
This was also the reason Fang Zhao was willing to coordinate and act, giving Edmund more chances to show off and help Baiji's mining value become more well known and attract more investors to help shoulder the pressure. Baiji's leaders were happy to shower these people bearing responsibilities with even more benefits.
Edmund told them that over at the basic mines, each time the truck team made a trip, they would transport several kilotons of ore and raw materials. These were used for the base's construction.
Transporting several kilotons per trip might have sounded like a lot, but when compared to bases with abundant manpower and resources, this was totally pitiful and unsightly. In those bases, the volume of freight transported by those trucks was in the tens of kilotons per trip.
With low freight volumes and a lack of manpower, the base and the outposts developed at a much slower rate.
The motorcade traveled on the most commonly used road and did not encounter any aggressive life-forms. The journey was smooth, and after 40 minutes, they arrived at the power-source mine.
At the mining site, there was a garrison stationed to maintain the safety of the place.
Kevin Lin once again turned on the camera, and he intended to fly it over the mining site for an overhead view, but that was rejected. The deployment of the mining site was classified military information, so Kevin Lin could only film the surroundings.
Edmund brought them to a mine entrance. Excavation had been underway for a few days already. Fang Zhao could hear the humming of machinery coming from inside. There were two mechanical conveyor belts transporting rocks and stones out. One belt transported waste rock, while the other transported power ore.
Edmund's hand randomly went to the conveyor belt and picked up a piece of power ore and handed it over to Fang Zhao and Kevin Lin. Within the dark brown piece of rock, there was a piece of near transparent stone.
"Grade A high quality ore. To be exact, this is grade A−." For classification of ores, grade A was divided into three ranks: A+, A, and A−. Comparing a piece of similarly sized power ore, grade A+ would provide much more energy than grade A− one.
However, these pieces of power ore being grade A was not too bad. The reason why planet Baiji had been able to construct a base was not just because there were life-forms and it was habitable, it was also due to the rich mineral resources available. Solely relying on solar energy was not enough to meet the high energy demands of maintaining the base's development rate—power ore was the most important. After preliminary surveys, planet Baiji contained quite a lot of grade A power ore, which was sufficient to maintain the base's development and future extensions.
Edmund sighed. "A pity. They were careless when excavating and broke it. For an ore this size, the quality will definitely drop. However, these kids have only been mining for half a year. Hitting this sort of standard is already not too bad."
Edmund spoke a few praises of the current batch of youngsters undergoing military service on Baiji. There were many online audiences, so too much criticism in the face of these audiences would lead to them having poor opinions.
A whole piece of power ore would surely be better than a few smaller pieces of power ore. Its commercial value would also be even higher. But these miners did not have sufficient experience, or perhaps they were distracted. In a moment of carelessness or during a loss of concentration, the large whole piece of power ore would be chipped and broken down into pieces. This resulted in a drop in grade and quality and was what many people knew as "ore dilution."
If the military service duration was two years, perhaps these situations would be slightly better. It took a year of mining experience to become proficient, but by then it was time to be decommissioned and the next batch of new conscripts would arrived. Thus, ore dilution would always be a problem.
"Ore dilution cannot be prevented. Even if we were to use machinery to mine, it would still occur." Edmund was speaking the truth, but he was speaking to exonerate those young conscripts that did not have much experience. He knew that many parents were watching the broadcast, and they did not wish to hear base officers speaking poorly of their kids.
For Edmund to make it to the level he was at, he had decent EQ. Even if he could not make the audiences adore him, he could at least make himself less deplorable.
"Mining is a technical job. Other than old miners with many years of experience, everyone else will find it hard to avoid such situations." As Edmund was speaking, a person clad in full work attire ran out from the mining tunnel. Removing his helmet, his youthful face flashed a grin.
"You guys are here!" Excitement was written on his face as he turned to look at Fang Zhao and Kevin Lin beside Edmund. Scanning further at the camera floating in the air, his smile's intensity doubled. He showed some restraint and raised his hand to adjust his helmet hair, trying to make it look better.
Edmund could understand where he was coming from and did not say anything. Edmund turned toward Fang Zhao to make introductions. "Hayden arrived last October and is the leader of this mining team." After that, he turned to Hayden and pointed at Fang Zhao. "This here is..."
"I know, I know, Fang Zhao! It's an honor to meet you at last! I really love the style of your tunes!" Hayden wanted to say more, but he caught a glimpse of Edmund's expression and immediately swallowed the remainder of his words. He reluctantly put on his helmet once again and said, "Shall I lead the way into the mine?"
Two soldiers brought over two sets of special work clothes that conscripts wore and helped Fang Zhao and Kevin Lin put them on.
"Let's enter." Edmund nodded, indicating for Hayden to lead the way.
"Yeah, all right!" Hayden happily exclaimed. Through his clear visor, he flashed a "Don't worry" expression toward Edmund. Everything had already been planned, and there would be absolutely no embarrassing situations.
Edmund felt a little at ease. Hayden was capable. In this team of miners, Hayden's evaluation was the best, and he had some experience with mining. Otherwise, he would not have become the leader of this team.
There were lights in the mining tunnel so it wasn't very dusky. As they walked in, some conscripts were using equipment to mine.
Noticing the indicator lights of the live broadcast, the conscripts hurriedly struck a pose, falling over each other trying to give a greeting and, as best as they could, let their voices appear on the live broadcast or show their faces. Although the masks covered half their faces, perhaps friends or families might recognize their eyes or their voices?
Hayden indicated for Fang Zhao and the group to stop. There was a case filled with tools, with a number of them seemingly like pickaxes.
Hayden fished one out from inside and handed it over to Fang Zhao. "Wanna try?"
Fang Zhao accepted the tool. Holding it, he realized these excavating tools were not as simple as they looked. Inside was some precise propulsion device, and it was made of special materials. These tools were not specially prepared for Fang Zhao; all military service personnel used these. With these tools, they did not need to use a lot of strength to chisel bits off the hard rock wall.
However, to excavate better quality ores and minimize ore damage still required accumulated experience.
"Our mining site has lots of ore. You don't have to pick a place, here will do." Hayden randomly pointed to a certain spot on the cave wall.
Kevin Lin felt this was funny. What lousy tricks. Even I won't fall for it, let alone those shrewd merchants.
To attract more investors, Baiji's base command wanted to spoon-feed Fang Zhao like a child.
Then tell the audience, "Look, this little celebrity's first time mining, and at a randomly picked spot at that, and he excavated ore on his first try. Our mineral resources are plentiful. Although the ore quality is not especially high, we have quantity! Interested investors, hurry and join the party!"
Kevin Lin stifled a laugh and asked Fang Zhao, who was staring at the cave wall, "What are your thoughts?"
"Thoughts? I think there is something behind this spot," Fang Zhao replied.
Edmund raised his eyebrows as his smile widened. That's right! Hurry and dig, let the online audiences know how concentrated planet Baiji's mineral deposits are!
Kevin Lin gestured at Fang Zhao with his hands, indicating that the camera was in place and he could begin to dig.
Fang Zhao brandished the propulsion pickaxe in his hand and heaved it over to strike the wall.
A piece of rock on the cave wall became loose. Fang Zhao adjusted the handle and the loose piece fell. He had used quite a bit of power, so the piece that fell was rather large.
Hayden looked at the piece of rock that fell, and the smile on his face became somewhat forced. This was undoubtedly a high-grade ore-rich site, and he had gotten many experienced old miners to take a look, so why was it that inside the rock that was pried off were only scattered fragments of power ore?
But what attracted the most attention was not the piece of rock that had fallen but rather the life-form that appeared in the hole in the cave wall where the rock used to be.
A sinister-looking bug about the size of two palms appeared. These kind of bugs were commonly found inside mineral veins and looked especially devilish, but people familiar with this mining site knew that these sorts of bug only looked scary. They had high defensive capabilities, but they were actually very stupid.
Colonel Edmund stiffly instructed a soldier to the side. "Drag it out and roast it."
Hayden trembled. He felt like those words were meant for him. After all, he was the one handling matters here and had met with unfavorable circumstances. Hayden hurriedly flashed Edmund a "Don't be impatient" look. This time, they had been really unlucky. Fang Zhao would surely excavate one the next time. Hayden had picked out a few reserves.