Malaysian police crush bitcoin mining PCs after busting gang stealing $2.8 million of electricity

Bitcoin mining could push global warming above 2C by 2033, says one expert.
Bitcoin mining could push global warming above 2C by 2033, says one expert. Photo credit: Getty Images

Police in Miri, Malaysia have crushed 1069 bitcoin mining rigs worth NZ$1.8 million after they were seized in a joint operation between police and an energy company.

Powerful rigs - essentially PCs built especially for the purpose of cryptocurrency mining - are used to maximise rewards but consume a lot of electricity while doing so.

Essentially, miners receive the currency as payment for the computer processing power used to solve complex mathematical problems and then record that data to the blockchain. 

"A total of six people have been successfully charged for electricity theft and have been fined up to RM8,000 (NZ$2700) and jailed for up to eight months," Miri police chief Hakemal Hawari told Malaysia's The Star.

"The electricity theft for mining bitcoin activities has caused frequent power outages and in 2021, three houses were razed due to illegal electricity supply connections," he added.

The value of electricity stolen was around NZ$2.8 million worth, police said.

The environmental cost of cryptocurrencies is one of the reasons that Tesla CEO Elon Musk - a supporter of the technology over traditional fiat currencies - stopped accepting bitcoin for car payments.

According to analysts from Cambridge University, bitcoin currently consumes around 121 terawatt-hours of electricity per year - more than the whole of Argentina.

If the process continues on its current path, bitcoin alone could generate enough carbon dioxide to push the planet beyond 2C of warming by 2033, Dr Tara Shirvani, a disruptive technologies expert has said.

Earlier this month a large-scale illegal cryptocurrency mining operation was busted in Ukraine.

The miners there were using 3800 PlayStation 4 consoles and 5000 computers to create bitcoin, while stealing NZ$370,000 worth of electricity per month.

The amount stolen was at a level where power surges were a possibility, leaving people without electricity, police said.

The rise in the price of bitcoin - each one is currently worth NZ$45,500 - has even seen a historic hydroelectric powerplant in the US turn to mining. 

According to the CEO, Albany Engineering Corp makes three times as much by mining bitcoin as it does selling electricity to the National Grid.