Police in the city of Tianjin, situated in northern China, have seized 600 computers and eight high-power fans dedicated to bitcoin mining after reports received from the local power grid show unusually high electricity consumption.
According to local news agency Xinhua, the seizure of the mining rigs owes to the allegation that their users were engaging in the criminal activity of electricity theft – using excessive amounts of electricity with power taken illegally from the power grid and subsequently bypassing the electricity meter.
Police have detained six individuals, and news at press time is that five of the suspects are under investigation.
The investigation was launched after the local power company detected sudden surges in loss of electricity with a peak of almost 28%, according to Xinhua. This kind of surge is usually related to an increased load current – such as using mammoth amounts of electricity to power electricity-hungry machines. Following the detected change, the discovery was that the junction box of the user’s electricity had been short-circuited, which is a common way that electricity-theft occurs.
Cryptocurrency – especially bitcoin – mining is a notoriously power-hungry process which is typically dependent on high-performance computers. Xinhua reports that the monthly “electric charge of 600 such computers is estimated at hundreds of thousands of yuan” and with $1 USD to ¥6,3 CNY, a huge amount of money for a municipality to be losing.
Another case in Wuhan, central China, has made news of two suspects who have been arrested for renting a vacant house arranged for demolition, seizing power lines set up to supply the demolition and stealing the “free electricity” to power bitcoin mining computers. The men apparently managed to steal ¥49,100 CNY (approximately $7704,52 USD) worth of electricity before authorities stepped in.
Bitcoin mining is known to be extremely expensive to fuel the process, which might lead one to try and find a way to minimize the costs. Through theft, albeit one way to try this, is not the way to go about it.