Motivated by a problem arising in the mining industry, we estimate the energy ε(η) that is needed to reduce a unit mass to fragments of size at most η in a fragmentation process, when η→0. We assume that the energy used in the instantaneous dislocation of a block of size s into a set of fragments (s
2,…) is s
2/s,…), where φ is some cost function and β a positive parameter. Roughly, our main result shows that if α>0 is the Malthusian parameter of an underlying Crump-Mode-Jagers branching process (with α = 1 when the fragmentation is mass-conservative), then there exists a c∈(0,∞) such that ε(η)∼cηβ-α when β<α. We also obtain a limit theorem for the empirical distribution of fragments of size less than η that result from the process. In the discrete setting, the approach relies on results of Nerman for general branching processes; the continuous approach follows by considering discrete skeletons. In the continuous setting, we also provide a direct approach that circumvents restrictions induced by the discretization.