Body mining is the practice of retrieving bodies from space after combat. Laws surrounding body mining vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but unlicensed recovery of corpses is often considered akin to grave robing. Body mining may be performed for a variety of reasons; the most common being sale of the body to clone facilities for use as biomass. Legal recovery of corpses is a flourishing business throughout New Eden and can turn a steady profit.
Since prehistoric times, battles have left large fields of corpses. Retrieval and disposal of these corpses varied from culture to culture and even battle to battle. For engagements that lasted many days, night-time truces often existed, where each side was allowed to retrieve its wounded and dead unmolested. Once a battle had been completed, the victor typically recovered his own dead, while leaving his enemies to either rot in the field, cremating them upon a large pyre, or burying them in a mass grave. Depending on the prevailing sentiments of the time, the victor's dead may not have been afforded a much nobler fate.
As battles moved from terrestrial locations into space, the retrieval of corpses became more problematic. In the vast, deadly vacuum of space, bodies could quickly be sent drifting off toward nothingness with a mild push and become unrecoverable. Additionally, the harsh conditions meant that retrieving the dead was just as likely to cause more fatalities as not. For a time, death in space resulted in an eternal consignment to the void.
But as combat-related death in space became more common, the return of bodies to loved ones became more common. The methods of finding and identifying corpses was still primitive, however, and retrieval was still a dangerous task. For the most part, only the wealthy could afford the service, but many boutique operations opened specifically to retrieve bodies.
Once cloning became popular, the opportunities for body miners became far more prevalent. Cloning requires an immense amount of biomass, with the highest quality biomass coming from intact corpses found after a battle, where the vacuum of space would keep them well preserved. The first few years of this boom was filled with low-lives and criminals who would simply scoop up any body they came across and sell it for biomass. Some even delved into piracy, attacking ships to create their own bodies. The Gallente Federation quickly made the practice illegal, though this did not dissuade everyone.
Eventually, the need for cleanup of battlesites and the retrieval of bodies became recognized as a pressing need. Humanitarian organizations like the Sisters of EVE provided some relief, but their ability to assist was limited. Eventually, each of the empires and other members of the CONCORD Assembly reached an agreement that licensed body miners were needed. The licensing fee is expensive and requires the passing of regular inspections and audits, moving the business more firmly into the realm of respectability.
Body mining consists of several steps; finding the location of bodies, retrieving the bodies from vacuum, attempting identification of the body, and finally disposing of the bodies. The third step must be carried out before the fourth step, according to law. Disposing of a body before identification has been attempted violates most licensing agreements, incurring the risk of being stripped of the license.
Discovering the location of bodies can take several forms. In the event a corporation is hired to retrieve a specific body, the clients may provide the last known location of the person, the flight plan of their ship, or even the specific location the ship they were on board was destroyed. For general recovery jobs, corporate trawlers will watch GalNet and CONCORD databases, waiting for reports of large battles. Laws give priority to the first corporation on site in such a case, making it a race for corporate recovery ships to stake their claims.
Once a battle site has been discovered, the next task is retrieving the bodies. This remains a dangerous task, as the best method of recovering the bodies undamaged is to have individuals in vacuum suits venture out and collect the corpses by hand. This is commonly called a “death march”, due both to its grisly nature and the risks involved. Even when care is taken, there is a risk of injury or even death for those workers involved in death marches. Salvaging drones and other methods of corpse retrieval can be utilized, but they frequently inflict damage on the corpses, rendering them of lower grade and making identification much more difficult.
Identification of bodies can be incredibly difficult, depending on the amount of time they have been exposed to vacuum and how they were killed. Death by simple exposure frequently leaves bodies relatively intact and easy to identify. Unfortunately, few space-based deaths come from exposure; most are a result of catastrophic destruction of a ship, meaning extensive damage from weapons fire, the ship's explosion, and other hazards.
In recent years, several technologies have made body identification easier. DNA scanners, facial reconstruction simulators, biomass regenerators, and biological recursion solvents aid in the identification of corpses. Records are checked against public databases and civilian records. The majority of bodies are identified, but there are always a good portion that are simply too damaged to identified.
Once a corpse's identity has been established, a reasonable effort must be made to contact next of kin and offer to return the corpse for a moderate fee, determined by the difficulty of retrieval, identification, and distance to return it. Most of the time, next of kin cannot be found or do not wish to pay for the recovery. In these cases, the body can then be processed for biomass.
Biomass is sought after for a variety of applications. The most common is cloning, but it is also useful in scientific research and even manufacturing. All conditions of biomass are worth some amount of money, though the premium prices are reserved for the highest quality grade-A biomass.
Even with heavy regulation and high penalties for violations, illegal biomass harvesting is still rampant. Illegal harvesters are able to make high profits by avoiding any attempt at identification of corpses, lowering their costs tremendously. Illegal body miners typically sneak in and out as quickly as possible, to avoid authorities and confrontations with legal body retrieval corporations.
While many illegal body miners simply carry their biomass to second-tier, undiscerning cloning companies, a growing industry has emerged from body collection. Though the possession of corpses for personal use is quite illegal in every empire, this has not stopped a number of unscrupulous collectors from maintaining extensive collections of corpses. Some consider it an artistic pastime, similar to collecting sculptures, while others do it to feed some psychosis or deep perversion.