A little more current trend is exploring a sustainable perspective a game could explore sustainable gathering, pollution caused by crafting and wasted goods from sub par designs from cheap craftables. Bringing the moral choice of what to gather, craft and sell.
It is interesting but I am put in mind of an example from my days of studying law. Specifically the use of village greens (common pastures) with common grazing rights and the subsequent overgrazing abuse by many farmers placing their herds on those lands as opposed to their own. How would you effectively deal with such a situation in an MMO where each person would want to gather materials and the cumulative effect be undesirous. Introducing limited rights or quotas could be seen as unduly favouring some over others. With regard the sustainable aspect - how would you stop people from necessarily harvesting materials such as fish or trees that were undersized/grown. I must admit in some ways I am almost biased against the idea of raw material gathering for two reasons: Firstly it tends to enable botting for said product and secondly while it is a great timesink it also is a relatively unentertaining one. On the otherhand it is such a staple of MMO's that doing away with them might bring arguments to the fore such as "but there is no profession that I can do well and gathering is the only way I can generate enough income". Which to be honest (to my thinking at least) is not really that great an argument.
Contracting laborers to collect from locations for you and defending those units could be exciting.
This could be interesting but I think would need more expansion on the idea -- not necessarily just defending, but building a 2-3 hour timesink expedition including outfitting of the expedition, the rewards from such a thing would probably need to be commensurate though I must admit I do like the idea of the mining exploration analogy that you may not necessarily find a deposit on most trips but when you find one - you have a resource that trickles into your account for the life of the mine. Could build some economic factors into it such as guards wages etc at the setup of a deposit and then leave it to do other things.
Anyone have suggestions/ideas in how the above might be done?