When UK officers forced entry into what they thought was a cannabis farm in Great Bridge Industrial Estate, Sandwell, they did not expect what they saw. The premises actually housed a massive bitcoin mine.
“It’s certainly not what we were expecting! 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," Sandwell Police Sergeant Jennifer Griffin, said in a statement.
They seized it anyway, for a good reason
“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 inquiries with the unit’s owner.”
Further inquiries with Western Power revealed that the mine had bypassed the electricity supply and thousands of pounds worth had been stolen by the Bitcoin miners. Police had assumed it was a cannabis farm due to seeing lots of people visiting the unit at different times of day, lots of wiring and ventilation ducts, and a police drone picking up a considerable heat source from above. These were all classic indications of a cannabis farm.
So police decided to raid the premises on May 18 but when they gained entry they found instead a huge bank of around 100 computers used for Bitcoin mining. Cambridge researchers, in a recent study, said cryptocurrency "mining" for Bitcoin — which uses heavy computer calculations to verify transactions — consumes around 121.36 terawatt-hours (TWh) a year, more than the entire country of Argentina.
Another study estimates that Bitcoin mining could soon generate 130.50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually in China alone (which hosts more than 3/4th of cryptocurrency mining operations worldwide, for now) — more than the entire output of the Czech Republic in 2016. Luckily, this bitcoin mine won't be polluting any longer.