Cryptocurrency Companies Are Leaving China in ‘Great Mining Migration’

As China’s cryptocurrency market continues to be hit by a series of bans, the country’s mining industry is in the midst of an exodus.

The bitcoin mining by country 2021 is a story about the migration of cryptocurrency companies from China.

The high-powered computers are at the core of the New York-based business, which earns money by connecting them into inexpensive energy sources so they can solve mathematical puzzles and generate new bitcoin. Mining has evolved from a hobby that anybody with a computer could perform a decade ago to a huge business that requires a large number of computers and a lot of energy.

Bit Digital and other cryptocurrency mining firms are now facing many challenges as they transfer their equipment out of a nation that formerly used two-thirds of all worldwide electricity for bitcoin mining. Because the devices are susceptible to harm if they are disturbed, packaging and shipping them abroad is a difficult job. A new computer may cost upwards of $12,000.

Companies have had to select whether to ship their computers by air or sea, taking into account the cost and duration of the journey. As of June 30, Bit Digital still had 9,484 mining machines in China’s Sichuan region, accounting for almost a third of its total computers. Bit Digital’s chief strategy officer, Samir Tabar, said the firm has recruited big international logistics companies to assist transport the gear and expects to have it all in North America by the end of September. The machines are being sent to Nebraska, Georgia, Texas, and Alberta, Canada.

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Infrastructure for bitcoin mining equipment is being provided by companies like Compute North.

It is possible that the whole procedure will cost millions of dollars. Oil prices have increased in recent months, and the coronavirus epidemic has caused transportation bottlenecks, causing freight rates to soar. Computers from China are likewise subject to a 25% tax when they reach the United States. Aside from finding out how to properly pack and transport the devices, businesses must also locate facilities that can accommodate them.

“It has a significant financial effect on Chinese miners,” said Fred Thiel, CEO of Marathon Digital Holdings Inc., a cryptocurrency mining firm headquartered in Las Vegas. He drew a comparison to Detroit automaker General Motors Co., saying, “It’s sort of like GM having to shut down a factory and construct a new one somewhere.”

Fees are paid to miners for processing bitcoin transactions. In return, they will be entered into a lottery drawing in which the computers will create random numbers in the hopes of receiving the right one, which will unlock new bitcoin. Mining bitcoin is more lucrative when the cryptocurrency’s dollar value is increasing. Mining earnings were boosted by an earlier increase in bitcoin’s price, which peaked around $65,000 in mid-April, but the world’s most popular cryptocurrency has since lost almost a quarter of its value.

Bitcoin’s network only produces new money every 10 minutes by design, and the amount of coins it produces is expected to decrease in the future. Because the only way to improve one’s chances of finding out that number is to bring additional computers online, the race to unlock new bitcoin is energy-intensive. Bitcoin miners made more than $70 million a day at their peak in April, according to a University of Cambridge index, which put the annual power consumption of bitcoin mining at over 130 terawatt hours, which is more than Argentina’s.

Despite a long history of opposition to cryptocurrencies, China has become a significant market for bitcoin mining owing to low-cost energy, particularly in coal-rich Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, as well as the hydropower centers of Sichuan and Yunnan. While some, like Bit Digital, anticipated a crackdown on mining in China and started transferring their equipment out at the end of 2020, Beijing’s May announcement and following local government reactions caught others off surprise.

“It was always on our minds, but it was never a serious problem until now,” Alejandro De La Torre, vice president of Poolin, a cryptocurrency mining pool based in China, said. Mining pools enable a group of miners to pool their computer resources in order to improve their chances of unlocking bitcoin, after which the earnings are shared.

Beijing’s newest crackdown, dubbed the “great mining exodus” by some, comes as the Chinese government established lofty objectives to decrease coal usage and rebrand China as a climate leader. Aside from the United States, Chinese mining firms are also shipping equipment to Kazakhstan and Russia.

Mr. De La Torre said that he has been exploring sites in the United States where he may relocate some of their mining rigs from China and construct a big data center.

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In response to increased demand, Compute North is creating additional sites for miners.

Bit Digital is collaborating with businesses such as Compute North to find new homes for its remaining computers. Compute North, which offers mining rig infrastructure in Texas, South Dakota, and Nebraska, has experienced such a spike in demand in recent months that it is building five additional sites to accommodate new miners. In Texas and North Carolina, new sites are being built.

Other companies have popped up to offer logistical support for customers seeking to move their expensive equipment. In recent weeks, workers at a Hash House warehouse in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen have been cleaning, testing, fixing, and repackaging equipment for mining farms before putting them aboard aircraft. The devices, which may have come from rural or industrial regions throughout China, may be filthy and rusted, according to Kirk Su, the proprietor of Hash House.

Bigger companies with access to resources and established relationships in the United States, such as Bit Digital, according to Dave Perrill, CEO of Compute North, are far better positioned to withstand the exodus. Compute North, which has collaborated with utilities such as the Nebraska Public Power District, assists newcomers in navigating the complicated process of locating dependable and cheap electricity.

Mr. Perrill said, “It’s a little of Darwinism, like any market.” According to him, the firm got more requests to host Chinese mining activities than it could accommodate due to capacity constraints.

There are indications that additional mines are resuming operations. Early in July, a measure of how much computer power is devoted to bitcoin mining fell to its lowest level since September 2019, but has since recovered.

The mining migration, according to proponents of cryptocurrencies, would further decentralize bitcoin by ensuring that there is competition to unlock them and authenticate transactions all around the globe.

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Newcomers collaborate with businesses to find low-cost energy. In Kearney, Nebraska, Compute North has a data center.

Caitlin Ostroff and Elaine Yu can be reached at caitlin.ostroff@wsj.com and elaine.yu@wsj.com, respectively.

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Cryptocurrency companies are moving out of China, as the country has been cracking down on crypto mining. The crypto mining rig is a machine that can mine cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

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