Mining bitcoin could be about to get a whole lot easier after China's crypto crackdown

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CNBC 24 June, 2021 - 10:38am 46 views

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The crypto market has dropped dramatically amid new fears over China regulation. Bitcoin fell sharply over the morning UK time, and was matched by other major cryptocurrencies. Dogecoin saw the most dramatic plunge, losing 8.5 per cent of its value over the last 24 hours. The IndependentBitcoin price crash: Crypto market dramatically drops amid new fears over China regulation

China's Bitcoin crackdown drives miners toward freewheeling Texas

Nikkei Asia 23 June, 2021 - 10:40am

TOKYO -- As China's clampdown on cryptocurrency drives miners out of a country that had dominated the industry, the U.S. state of Texas is emerging as a destination of choice thanks to cheap electricity and a more welcoming environment.

Despite its abundance of fossil fuels and wind power, however, the state is struggling with its own power supply issues.

Shenzhen-based BIT Mining plans to invest $26 million in a 57-megawatt data center to be built in Texas. It would join Bitmain, headquartered in Beijing, which looks to scale up a facility that it launched there in 2019.

Power costs are a major factor in cryptocurrency mining, the energy-intensive process used to verify transactions and generate new coins. China, which offered low-cost electricity as well as cheap land for data centers, had hosted more than 60% of global Bitcoin mining.

But a growing number of mining companies, such as Hashcow, are shutting down operations there in response to tighter restrictions on cryptocurrency businesses announced last month, targeting not only mining but also transactions involving virtual currencies.

Texas, with its tax incentives for technology companies, is positioned to attract businesses displaced by this disruption. The southern state has among the lowest electricity prices in the U.S., owing partly to abundant natural gas reserves. Gov. Greg Abbott wrote on Twitter last month that Texas is becoming a "mecca" for Bitcoin miners.

American mining companies are gravitating there as well. Blockcap moved its headquarters to Austin, the state capital, in April and plans to expand its fleet to 42,000 machines, more than doubling its capacity to more than 1% of the entire global Bitcoin hashrate, a measure of the total combined computing power in the network.

Texas's increasing adoption of wind power is a plus for miners starting to become concerned about the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies -- an issue that critics have brought to the forefront recently.

But the state's highly deregulated electricity market could pose risks down the line, as highlighted by the spike in prices during the cold snap in February that caused widespread power outages. As temperatures rise, Texas power customers are currently being asked to cut back on usage. How the state will handle Bitcoin miners in the event of an electricity shortage remains an open question.

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What we know about China’s cryptocurrency crackdown

The Verge 23 June, 2021 - 06:03am

Miners in the country are starting to get worried

While we haven’t seen any reports of China flat-out outlawing cryptocurrencies, the government started issuing warnings about trading and mining cryptocurrencies in May, and told the country’s financial giants they would have to stop dealing in crypto. Since then, we’ve seen the top three mining regions in the country start making moves against miners, and the government reportedly met with major banks again just this week to reiterate that banks can’t be involved with cryptocurrency transactions.

The reports indicate the potential for a large drop world’s crypto mining capacity: the University of Cambridge estimated in April of 2020 that China provided 65 percent of Bitcoin’s hashrate, with three main provinces making up the bulk of that computing power. Those three regions seem to be following the government’s example by working to curb crypto — Xinjiang, the region with the most mining on average according to Cambridge’s provincial breakdown, has shut down a major mining hub, according to The Block, and Inner Mongolia has reportedly started the process of a instituting a total mining ban. Last week, the province of Sichuan instituted a ban on mining, telling electricity companies to cut power to any mining operations they discovered. The Yunnan provincial government has also reportedly told its power companies to stop making side-deals with miners.

Both miners and the market have reacted to the tightening regulations. Last week, CNBC reported that there’s a “great mining migration” in progress, with some Chinese-based miners currently packing up and moving to other countries, like the US or Kazakhstan. Others are selling their mining equipment off to foreign buyers, as seen below.

Since the government’s proclamations in May, graphics card prices in the country have fallen noticeably, according to the South China Morning Post, as demand for mining GPUs has fallen. The price of major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have also dropped sharply since China made those moves, according to Coinbase’s tracker — since early May, Bitcoin prices have gone from around $55,000 to around $32,000, and Ethereum has halved in value. It’s hard to tie that directly to China’s actions, especially given other factors like Elon Musk and NFTs, but publications like The Wall Street Journal have been discussing it as a factor.

The Chinese government says it’s acting now because of concerns around crypto’s volatile price, and its potential use for money laundering and illegal dealings, according to Reuters. There’s also speculation that the Chinese government may be concerned about optics: crypto mining’s reputation as an environmental disaster doesn’t square with the China’s desire to be seen as a leader in green energy, with its leader pledging that the country will be carbon-neutral by 2060. It’s worth noting that China is also developing its own centralized digital currency.

The Chinese government has been tightening the screws on Bitcoin for years — it banned banks from handling Bitcoin in 2013, and banned initial coin offerings in 2017. But cheap electricity from hydro and coal, along with some legal grey areas, have reportedly allowed mining to explode in the country. Now, it seems like some miners have had enough. The president of a Hong Kong mining pool told CNBC that it doesn’t “want to face every single year, some sort of new ban coming in China.”

China isn’t the only country that’s been making policy moves around cryptocurrencies — Iran issued a temporary ban on mining during the summer months, and India is potentially making ownership of crypto illegal. El Salvador has gone the opposite direction, becoming the first country to make Bitcoin a legal tender.

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Bitcoin surged as much as 18% after a wild day that saw the cryptocurrency briefly drop below $30,000

CNBC 23 June, 2021 - 05:38am

Bitcoin continued to rebound from its lows for the year on Wednesday.

The cryptocurrency sank below the key $30,000 threshold Tuesday, at one point briefly erasing all its 2021 gains. It later recovered to turn positive for the day.

On Wednesday, bitcoin surged 18%, climbing back above the $34,000 mark in early morning trading, according to Coin Metrics data. It last changed hands at $33,641.27, up 3% on the day.

Smaller rivals also surged, with ether rising 6% to $2,014 and XRP up 9% at a price of 64 cents. The reason for the moves higher wasn't clear, but cryptocurrencies are known for their volatility.

Bitcoin had a solid start to the year, rallying to an all-time high of almost $65,000 ahead of crypto exchange Coinbase's blockbuster debut and as institutional investors appeared to be warming to it.

But the world's biggest digital coin has been on a roller-coaster ride since, almost halving in value amid a slew of negative news.

In China, authorities have been clamping down on bitcoin mining, the power-intensive process for validating transactions and generating new bitcoins. Over the weekend, Beijing's crackdown on crypto mining extended to the hydropower-rich Sichuan province.

Then, the People's Bank of China on Monday said it had urged financial institutions including Alipay and major banks not to provide services related to cryptocurrency activities.

Investors have also become more concerned about bitcoin's environmental impact, after Tesla CEO Elon Musk decided to stop accepting bitcoin as a method of payment for his company's vehicles.

At the time, Musk said he was worried about bitcoin's huge energy consumption and the "rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels" in mining the digital asset. However, he later said Tesla would accept bitcoin when at least half of bitcoin mining is confirmed to be powered by clean energy.

Critics of the cryptocurrency have long been wary of its impact on the environment. That could threaten the adoption of bitcoin by institutional investors, which are under growing pressure to invest in cleaner, more ethical assets.

Meanwhile, there have also been concerns about tether, a so-called stablecoin whose price is meant to be pegged to the U.S. dollar.

Tether is now the world's third-largest digital currency with a market value of more than $60 billion. But some investors are worried tether's issuer doesn't have enough dollar reserves to justify its peg to the greenback.

Last month, the company behind tether broke down the reserves for its stablecoin, revealing that around 76% was backed by cash and cash equivalents — but just under 4% of that was actual cash, while about 65% was commercial paper, a form of short-term debt.

It comes after the New York attorney general's office reached a settlement with Tether and Bitfinex, an affiliated digital currency exchange. The state's top law enforcement official had accused the firms of moving hundreds of millions of dollars to cover up the loss of $850 million in commingled client and corporate funds. Tether and Bitfinex agreed to pay $18.5 million in the settlement and were barred from operating in New York state, however the companies didn't admit to any wrongdoing.

 — CNBC's Tanaya Macheel contributed reporting.

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