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Iranian authorities shut down huge illegal Bitcoin farm

Tens of thousands of ASICs mining Bitcoin were confiscated from a farm in south-east Iran

Around 45,000 Bitcoin mining machines were confiscated by the Iranian police for using subsidised electricity illegally, according to a report published on Sunday by local media outlet Tasnim News Agency. The machines were mostly of the application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) type.

On Saturday, Mohammad Hassan Motavalizadeh, the head of Tavanir, Iran’s state run electricity company, explained that Bitcoin miners had been paying a very cheap subsidised price for the electricity that their machines had been consuming at a rate of 95 MWh (megawatts per hour).

He also said however that changes to the street lighting systems in cities such as Tehran had saved the country another 45 MWh of electricity. Motavalizadeh said: “The total reduced consumption corresponds to the [electricity] use for a city with a population of over half a million.”

There is currently a demand of more than 40,000 MWh of electricity for the country, which Iran is struggling to meet as a major rise in natural gas consumption – caused by a cold spell and the government’s stay at home regulations for fighting the pandemic – makes it difficult to provide the power plants with enough fuel.

Iran is already trying to avoid power blackouts in its major cities through the interim shutdown of authorised Bitcoin farms, which authorities estimate to have a total consumption of 60,000 MWh.

Now the country has launched a fresh crackdown on the illegal mining of cryptocurrencies. The tens of thousands of illicit Bitcoin mining machines were shown on a farm in south-east Iran in a video that was circulated on social media earlier in the week. The farm is owned by a Chinese-Iranian investment company, and after its activities were discovered, the supply of electricity to the farm was halted by Iran’s Energy Ministry.

Cryptocurrency mining was legalised in Iran in July of 2019, which was at first welcomed by miners before many started going underground, claiming that the electricity tariffs were too high. Unauthorised miners caught using subsidised power are fined as much as the loss they cause to the national grid. Since the legalisation, authorities have shut down at least 1,620 illegal mining farms that used 250 MW of electricity in that time.

However, many in the cryptocurrency industry feel they are being unfairly blamed. Tehrani cryptocurrency researcher, Ziya Sadr, told The Washington Post over the weekend: “The miners have nothing to do with the blackouts. Mining is a very small percentage of the overall electricity capacity in Iran.”

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