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UK police uncover illegal crypto mine

Police raided a warehouse near Birmingham expecting to snare a cannabis farm but instead discovered a sizeable Bitcoin mine

The huge energy usage of Bitcoin miners means that some less scrupulous entrepreneurs are turning to illegal means to power their operations.

This is one potential conclusion to be made after police raided a warehouse near Birmingham to uncover a suspected cannabis farm but instead discovered a cryptocurrency mine.

Mining Bitcoin is not illegal, however, the 100 bitcoin mining machines at the Great Bridge Industrial Estate were found to be powered by electricity unlawfully hived off from the mains supply.

READ: Cryptos to watch: greener alternatives to Bitcoin

It is not certain how long the illegal mining venture had been in operation, but West Midlands Police detectives told reporters that they had been tipped off about frequent visitors to the warehouse unit.

A police drone had also picked up a lot of heat coming from the building.

This all led police to suspect they would find a cannabis farm, said Sgt Jennifer Griffin.

“It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis cultivation set-up and I believe it’s only the second such crypto-mine we’ve encountered in the West Midlands,” she said in a statement.

“My understanding is that mining for cryptocurrency is not itself illegal but clearly abstracting electricity from the mains supply to power it is.

“We’ve seized the equipment and will be looking into permanently seizing it under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

“No-one was at the unit at the time of the warrant and no arrests have been made, but we’ll be making enquiries with the unit’s owner.”

Depending on the equipment and how long it had been running, the criminals could have made a significant profit.

Using a single GPU (graphics processing unit) could reap between US$5 and US$12 per day in Bitcoin, depending on the model of the unit and the Bitcoin price, while an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) rig could generate around US$20 per day – or £2,000 for the whole bank of machines.

It was estimated by the police that the mine had illegally used thousands of pounds of electricity.

Bitcoin mining uses a lot of energy – with the entire global mining network estimated to consume more electricity each year than the whole of Argentina or the Netherlands – which has led to Tesla boss Elon Musk addressing the issue following the company’s large purchase of Bitcoin in February.

Musk said this month that Tesla is “concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions” and “looking at other cryptocurrencies” that use much less energy per transaction.


Read More: UK police uncover illegal crypto mine

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