The Black Box Drive

Although fusion reactors were a game changer for civilisation and space exploration, they were still not powerful enough for the most extreme applications in space.
After Black Ocean discovered the iridium deposits on Chariklo they engaged dozens of manufacturers to unknowingly work on different parts of what would eventually become known as the Black Box Drive - a reactor capable of a 50x jump in performance over the standard fusion reactor tech.
It was called the Black Box Drive because the reactor had to be installed by Black Ocean and the housing of the reactor was permanently fused and rigged with traps and failsafes so no one could open it up to see how it worked. All ships with a BBD also had to have a reactor guard droid from Black Ocean permanently onboard.
To the common eye it seemed as if Black Ocean had gone from a medium-sized semi-unknown mining company to all-powerful engine manufacturers overnight. The jump in technology between the standard fusion drives and the Black Box Drive was so impossibly massive that some people genuinely thought Black Ocean had discovered and harnessed alien tech.
The fact that Chariklo was heavily guarded and no information was ever released by Black Ocean about their resource findings only amplified this conspiracy theory of alien tech having been discovered on Chariklo. Which was complete nonsense of course, but it played perfectly into Black Ocean's hands to distract everyone from the truth.

The Black Box Drive was a huge engineering leap in human history, all made possible by the unique properties of iridium and its numerous applications in reactor technology. The Black Box Drive could sustain constant 1g acceleration even in the largest hauler ships - suddenly it took 10 days to get to the asteroid belt instead of several months. 1g acceleration also meant humans onboard were comfortable during travel.
10 days to reach the belt meant fast and easy access to almost unlimited resources. Bigger and more advanced ships were being manufactured every week, all powered by Black Box Drive tech.
With such a massive leap in evolution and virtually limitless asteroids in the belt, mining became such a dominant field that almost 80% of humanity worked at some capacity in asteroid mining - from admin roles to rocket scientists to ship crews, you name it. There were jobs for everyone.

When competitors finally figured out the secret of how the drive worked, Black Ocean had already established a mining colony on Chariklo and hauled thousands of tonnes of iridium to undisclosed repositories across the system.
Iridium isn't a magical element, it's just scarce on earth. Once competitors learned how the Black Box Drive worked, they managed to build similar reactors with matching output using iridium produced on earth or found in smaller asteroids.
But the master plan of Black Ocean was never to become an engine manufacturer. Their primary objective was to create technology that relied on iridium, establish it as the universal standard, and then become the only reliable supplier of the rare metal for which they already had a monopoly.
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The Mining Generations
The Secret Revealed