Easiest thing, take a few minutes to look at systems in all of Eve, and start narrowing down systems that have an acceptable combination of traffic, ship and pod kills, populations and ore types. And an acceptable combination depends on how you want to deal with HA5.
I knew HA5 was coming, like the other HAs before it. On top of that, there are the random ass-hats that just like to get their jollies by running around and blowing up players who can't shoot back. This is where planning comes in. This is where selective skill training comes in. With a mining barge, make sure all 4 shield resist type skills (EM, kinetic, explosive and thermal) are trained to at least level 4. Do the exact same thing with the armour resists. If you want to be really dedicated, another 64 days (with L5 implants) will take you to level 5 in all 8. Make sure the other shield, ship and mechanic skills are at least level 4 to further boost the shield, armour and hull strength. I'm not going to list them. If you seriously want to be an indy type, make sure you get your ship related skills as close to max as possible - refresh your knowledge of those skills. They will transfer to everything you fly. Indy boats are fragile, use the skills to make them less so. If the skills aren't all trained up to 4, start on them now. Every resist and shield skill adds protection and will likely be a big bonus even before the end of May.
If you're flying a barge, you likely, if you're smart, have some drone skills trained. Forget about combat drones for HA. Drones shooting at a gank ship will gain you nothing. Think shield and armour repping drones, and/or electronic warfare drones. You could even forget about EW and concentrate on reppers, because you still have to wait to be aggressed, and THEN send the EW drones after the asshat, and by then, you're likely dead. Especially if it is a gank ship sitting 80km away. Train up the skills so that the mining toons can use repper drones, and get the skills up to level 4 too. A simple thing to do. And yes, it too is permanent. With a mining fleet, if each person targets a different barge/orca, each one can be constantly under shield or armour rep, and that adds survival time while Concord drops in. Yes, I know about rats. So, you have two options. Pull the drones, send combat drones to kill the rats, then redeploy the reppers, or mine in .9/1.0 where no rats spawn. Multiple times, I have hat asshats show up in destroyers, they see the reppers, and leave. ESPECIALLY for T1 barges - they are paper. Two sets of shield repping drones, plus the skills, plus a couple of simple modules, and the T1 barges go from paper to hardwood, some softer type of metal, or at the very least, stiff cardboard. It's a good thing.
Forget about spending millions on re-rigging the barges. Fuck that. Set them up for normal operations. In the mids, I run a couple civilian shield boosters, a shield recharger and an invuln field. Get those related skills to 4. I have a mining upgrade 2 in the low, along with a damage control 2. A hulk goes from about 8k HP to about 8700 with the invuln field turned on. It reps 6 hp every 1.5 seconds with both shield reppers on, and when you turn on the DC2, the boat goes up to about 15k HP with resists from 60s to high 70%s. Add 5 shield repping drones, and that's more shield repping on top of the boosters. If your orca pilot is smart and skilled, in the third high slot, they'll run something useful like a shield harmonizing warfare link. If you're lucky, it's a T2. With decent skills as a hulk pilot, you still have 10k m3 of cargo space, still have great (but not perfect) mining performance at up to 1800m3 per gun, per cycle, have shield resists up in the high 60's to low 80 percentages and have shield rep drones, plus hobs, to rep and shoot rats. No fucking around with rigs are super gimped cargo or mining yield fits and a hulk can be cap stable with all that shit running AND without the need for funky implant bullshite. The hulk doesn't have a shit load of HP, but it does have pretty good resists.
For orca pilots, as mentioned above, run a shield harmonizer in the 3rd high slot, leave mining foreman links in the other two. Pull one of the expanded cargohold 2s, and use a damage control 2 as well. I use 2 shield inducers and an invuln field and swap out an AB or a webber (to help other industrials warp faster). With decent skills, the orca has 75 to 80K hp. The invuln can add another 5 or 6k when turned on. Turn on the DC 2, and all the resists go up and put the HP well over 150K HP. turn on the shield harmonizing link and you get maybe another 1000 hp, and you'll have 2 resists well into the 60% range or higher, but EM and thermal resists still suck ass anywhere from about 35 to 50% depending on skills. Not the greatest resists, but the orca gets HP over resists, plus, it too can get a little help from a shield booster, plus repping drones, and still be cap stable with all the shit running. Even outside of hulkageddon, the orca can be left like this pretty much permanently as a mining fleet booster. With 150K + HP, the orca pilots can get away with not having a repper drone fleet on them, and that frees up extra drones to double to triple rep a weaker barge. IE, for me, I'll take the 2 sets of drones, from the booster and transport orca, and assign them to rep the T1 barges, or the weakest hulk pilot, to help double or triple the repping drones. With 150k HP, that is putting an orca in the same HP range as a freighter at around 175 to 185k HP. You know, the ones that it took 25 gank BCs or miscellaneous fleets up to 60+ ships to blow up? The important thing to know, is that while an orca has fewer HP, it's resists are still VASTLY superior to a freighter. What are the chances even the angriest little goon-derp is going to drag out 25 x ~80 misk ships to blow up an orca? Slim to fucking none? Your orca is safe.
For T1 mining barges, or mackinaws, things get tougher, even in fleets, because they have Jack Shit for HP. They have Jack Shit for resists (like a freighter). They have Jack Shit for slots, and suffer on the grid issues as well. Not a surprise that people like to pop them, and can pop them so easy. For T1 boats, this is where a couple hulk or orca pilots can help out by assigning 10 or more repper drones to cover your ass, BUT, even a T1 can still run a damage control and that will help out a shit ton, but it still leaves the protection meter in the "pathetic" range. If you must run a T1 barge, there are other things that can be done to mildly mitigate gank threats a little more.
So, now that some of the skill, module and ship parameters have been established, we go back up to the top where we were talking about acceptable levels of traffic, kills, population and ore types.
If you have low skills, and fly T1 barges, stick to .9 and 1.0 systems. Find ones out in the middle of nowhere, with low traffic and most importantly, low numbers of asteroid belts. Don't pick ones on main pipes - try to find dead ends, or small loops/squares/triangles that don't really go anywhere else. No one wants to mine in a system with only a few belts and is basically a dead end. Gankers assume this to be so as well, so mine there until your skills get better while they go off to find systems with lots of belts, or ice belts, or both. Pull out the local chat window, expand it, stay aligned to a station, and you should be ok. You might even be able to use mining drones if populations stay low. Even if you are in a fleet, everyone stays aligned, watch local, and you should be fine. In .9 or 1.0, especially with an orca and hulks, Concord will be on a ganker almost instantaneously and you'll be fine.
If your skills are to the level that mine are, mostly 4 with some 5s, and (thankfully) with perfect hulk and orca skills, look for systems in the .8 range with pyro and veldspar, or if you're feeling braver, go for .7 with kernite as well. So, how do you find out what kind of ore a system has? Simple. Go to Dotlan, type in the system name, and it shows you what types of ore the system has. Example. See? For a random-ass click, it's actually not a bad system for traffic and kills. BUT, it's .5 security, and there are 13 belts. Not that it gets a lot of traffic, but if a ganker shows up, they'll be able to do some serious damage before Concord decides to show up. So, you locate a good candidate system in Eve's client star map, and then go for more details with a site like Dotlan. If you tend to mine solo, you can pick a system with low population/traffic/NPC kills (which indicates low population/activity) and with as few belts as possible based on how much you tend to mine, when you DO mine. If you usually fleet up, with good/decent orca boosts, you might want 2 or 3 or 4 belts in a system if you mine for a few hours. Other than that, same rules apply, but try not to go any deeper than .7 security. Optimum for me is a system with 4 or 5 belts, and it's .8 with kernite for a ~3 hour mining op. Stay aligned, repper drones deployed (double or triple up on the weker/est ship), local pulled out, and stay frosty :)
What DON'T you need? Fucking around with multi-million dollar rigs. Having a complete extra set of ships for hulkageddon events. Gimped mining barges with piss poor mining yields and no fucking cargo space. Just train the skills up, use DCs, take even only 10 minutes to scout out some good backwater systems, and you will likely be just fine. Gankers are creatures of habit. They go to the ice systems. the ygo to the .5 and .6 systems with lots 'o belts. Why? Because miners like to mine where there are lots of belts. If you want to go even a little further into the void, go to a system with NO stations and use secure containers, again, out of the way though. With more skilled hulk and orca pilots, you can be a little more aggressive to go after tastier belts by mining in an ice system with high populations. Gankers will go after a Mackinaw, almost every time, if they have to choose between that and a hulk. Let them be bait if they want to take their chances with ice mining. ;)
So, true fact, it doesn't matter a pinch of coon shit WHAT you do with your indy ships. If some asshole wants to gank you bad enough, you're dead. They know how much armour the barges have, and they know what order they rank in as far as difficulty to explode. If some dude shows up in your belt with a battleship(s), get the fuck out as he could be planning to smart bomb your mining op. If a dude shows up in your belt, stays for a few minutes in a small ship, and then leaves, and then local balloons afterwards, get the fuck out as he might have brought his buddies. You can take inexpensive steps to protect yourself, and you can mine your ass off, all the way through hulkageddon, and get nearly the same yields as normal. With 5 hulks, a retriever and two orcas, in high sec, .7 sec and up, since the start of "burn Jita", I've managed to stockpile over 8 billion worth of minerals from out in the middle of butt-fuck New Eden. I'm completely away fro mteh normal system I mine in, and with a sweet little system, with a current population of 12 (8 of which are my toons :)), I'm going to see if I can hit the 20 billion mark before the end of May. Anyone can do the same, all it takes is a little planning, and a small handful of isk.
Hulkageddon?? Pffft. Fucking whatever . . .