|Behind the scenes|
The Unobtanium Mine is the location where the RDA extract unobtanium from the Pandoran surface. The mine is of open-pit style with an access road running through the middle of the 1501.1 meter by 1212.5 meter operation.
An RDA Mining Update Report
"Mining operations at ESM 01 (the main mine on Pandora) have proceeded according to plan, despite casualty rates running somewhat higher than anticipated. Continuing reports consist of miners feeling strange tactile sensations and distortions in vision and hearing, which is likely the result of the electromagnetic field. Some report disturbing thoughts or compulsions, irregular heartbeats, limb paralysis, muscle tremors, or vertigo, and nausea. Excavation has been carried out with standard non-ferrous beryllium copper and tungsten carbide fusion-electric powered mining equipment modified with sealed operator cockpits and atmosphere filtration units. A typical mining cycle involves placing chemical charges above an ore deposit using satellite-positioned drill trucks, detonating the charges to loosen the overburden, then removing the overburden with excavators and dozers.
After the ore has been exposed, it is carefully removed with diggers and trucks; if the ore is pure enough to spontaneously levitate, special belt diggers feeding into covered trucks are used instead. The mine and refinery complex is relatively untroubled by Pandoran life-forms, with automatic cannons on guard towers easily able to cope with marauding ground and air attackers. Regular effluent sprays around the perimeter of the complex keep vegetation in check. Vehicle cabs are shielded against toxins; mining personnel are advised not to spend more than 20 minutes per day outside their vehicle cabs and are routinely decontaminated before they are allowed into Hell's Gate. The mine pits are terraced to allow easy access for vehicles, and are graduated outward. The shape and size of the known deposits at ESM 01 are such that over the mine's anticipated thirty-year lifetime the three excavation pits will eventually merge into a single crater about 4 kilometers across." 
The RDA had been planning to open up a second mine under the Omaticaya clan Hometree as substantial unobtanium deposits were found underneath the tree. The RDA had begun bulldozing a path to the Hometree, and destroyed the Tree of Voices in the process. However, the plan to build the mine failed due to the humans being forced off Pandora by the Na'vi and other Pandoran wildlife after a failed attempt to destroy the Tree of Souls.
The onsite refinery allows unobtanium ore to be refined before transport to Hell's Gate. Unobtanium’s unique properties are largely dependent on the inner structure of the material, which must be preserved through sending it to the Unobtanium Refinery.
Initial purification is done in large ball mills, followed by successive nitric and hydrofluoric acid rinses of the ore. Acidic by-product is discharged into the surrounding area to help control growth of life forms near the mine workings as well as around the periphery of Hell's Gate. Unobtanium flakes and ingots are then floated onto an inverted conveyor belt and fed through a multiphase roller mill equipped with non-magnetic neolon rollers; the rate of compression is carefully controlled to prevent heat build-up disrupting the anamagnetic properties of the quasimetal. The two-centimeter thick ribbon of unobtanium is cut to size with laser shears, then graded and packed for shipping. The end product of the refining process is unobtanium sheets one meter by five hundred centimeters, two centimeters thick. These measurements aim to present the ore in a readily versatile size and shape for humans working in the Pandoran low gravity environment and on Earth. These are aligned with contra-facing polarities for ease of handling, then packed in crates made from Pandoran native wood. The crates are designed for easy disassembly on Earth, where artisan furniture factories are willing to pay remarkable prices for the only extraterrestrial woods so far discovered.
- James Cameron's Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide page 19
- James Cameron's Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide page 182
- Pandorapedia - Unobtanium Mine and Refinery article