You can get mining lasers of different materials, but they can only mine materials one tier level higher than their own. A Mining Laser can be found by destroying other Ships or by buying one from an equipment station or merchant. Mining lasers drop at a much higher rate from mining ships. If you're at war with a faction, destroying their mining vessels will drop mining lasers at a high rate. You can identify these at times as lone energy signatures on sectors within their border. To use the mining laser, simply attach it to a ship by pressing the build key (B is default) and placing the turret on your ship. To then activate the toggle of the laser, press the ship menu key, select the salvaging laser and assign it to a number.
Mining lasers are practically useless in combat. In general you should avoid using these for combat, especially if they drain energy.
Mining lasers can only salvage up to materials one tier higher than their own. Mining lasers will deal more damage to materials that are lower tier than their own. Efficiency is an important stat, as is damage. In resource rich areas efficiency will not matter as much as how quickly you can gather the material. The damage value is increased by 200x against asteroids. In the following example you will see more clearly. For sake of simplicity, we will assume 1 Damage/s will gather 1 resource/s:
While the least efficient, the first laser would get you the most material every second.
Very early on, mining is one of the best and fastest ways to gather materials. You may sell the resources at a local resource depot and likely gather more mining lasers from the local equipment dock. To equip more than two turrets you will need a turret control system for unarmed/all turrets.
Strip Mining Sectors
For later game mining, it is recommended to create multiple ships with captains, equip them with mining lasers, and order them to mine for you. When each sector is cleared order them to escort you and move on to the next nearby sector with mineable asteroids.
Mining lasers should not be used for salvaging, since they do not cause parts to drop Salvaging Laser levels of resources, only dropping the normal destroyed-block levels of resources.