Why not just mine at bottom (layer 6-16)? That way you get all the ores there is, and at least I haven't noticed any change in quantity of ores when I mine at the bottom =)
I just finished my new branch mine, and the last hour I collected 23 diamonds, 8 stacks of coal, 4 stacks of iron, almost a stack of gold, and some other stuff like lapis/redstone (I don't mine too much of that unless it gets in the way of my branches) etc.
Yes it does. It has a .5% chance of appearing anywhere below sea level, and an almost 0% chance anywhere above sea level. There isn't a specific level where you can find it at in a higher ratio, but make sure you are below sea level or you won't find much of anything.
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Well, he quoted the wikipedia article, stating that it was 0.5 % below sea level. What I was asking was what level it was most plentiful on. It would have been better to state the article then claim that there was no most plentiful level. Also, could someone walk me through branch mining? I don't think I quite get it.
Iron is fairly evenly spread out from about ten blocks below sea level all the way to bedrock. I just dig all the way down to bedrock, then go back up about ten blocks and start digging. Might as well look for iron, diamond, coal, gold, and lapis at the same time.
Also check out deep caves. You can usually just find it on the walls.
I think the most common method of branch mining is to build a looong tunnel, then every third block along its length on both sides, build a tunnel branching off.
I mine for iron at y50. This is sufficiently deep that running tunnels under lakes shouldn't be a hassle, but not deep enough that iron spawns will start "competing" with other resources. You also mine plenty of coal as well.
As well, I'm convinced you hit more ore nodes tunneling diagonally than you would making a straight tunnel. That's just anecdotal though.