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Ruins are rare and valuable artifacts that appear on planets. A colony can be used to extract them, and they can be found using a Planetscanner.

Ruins are leftover fragments of alien technology. They were left behind by these Ancient Races and can now be exploited by players for wealth and power. Most of these races are now extinct. The Bule, Vazaha, and Faranji races no longer exist, while some of the Mzungu survived. These Mzungu drifters mutated and became the Big Greens and other such creatures seen today. The story is expanded on during the Enigma and Ancient Ruin mission chains.
Ruins can be obtained through the use of a colony. A colony built on a planet with ruins will eventually offer to sell those ruins. Players can setup their bases to buy these ruins for a higher price than what the colony is asking for. If the price is high enough, the colony will eventually sell the ruins to the player.
Quote from HAL
"The colony will only extract one ruin from the planet at a time, so stop buying the other ruin that you have and after a while you will get the chance to extract again. The colony will also store ruins up to the storage limit so you will need to wait for it to continue extracting and stockpiling the ruin that you don't want. That could take a couple of days.
Long story short - don't extract anything but the item you want and you will get it. There is no limit on the number of any given item that you can extract."
Types of Ruins