During a May 18 raid in the U.K., West Midlands Police expected to find a cannabis growing operation after learning about a site stealing electricity on the Great Bridge Industrial Estate. Instead, they found about 100 computers mining cryptocurrency.
The BBC reports that detectives received a tip prior to the raid. Onlookers said that they saw multiple people visiting the site throughout the day and police drones picked up a lot of heat coming from the building — typically a sign of a growing operation. Western Power Distribution also found that the site was illegally connected to its grid, stealing “thousands of pounds [worth of] of electricity.”
“It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis cultivation setup,and I believe it is only the second such crypto mine we have encountered in the West Midlands,” Sgt. Jennifer Griffin said. The authorities seized the computers but didn’t make any arrests.
Crypto-mining operations are becoming a problem not only in the U.K., but around the world. In 2018, New York allowed some power providers to start charging higher fees to crypto miners. In March 2021, New York introduced a bill that would ban mining for three years while the state evaluated the environmental impact.
These measures come in response to the growing climate problem surrounding mining coins like Ethereum. Some scientists say that increased demand for cryptocurrency has already negated the effects of using electric vehicles.
Recent reports show some mining operations bringing in over $20,000 per month, and Nvidia, whose GPUs are frequently at the heart of these mining operations, earns upwards of $400 million each year from crypto miners.
It’s not just private operations, either. One of Russia’s largest oil producers set up a Bitcoin mining farm in Siberia last year that’s entirely powered by gas.
With the price of multiple cryptocurrencies hitting all-time highs, we’re still not sure if demand — in terms of power and coins — will continue to grow. With volatility in currencies like Bitcoin, some investors think the market is showing a repeat of 2014 and 2018, where high volatility caused mass selloffs and devalued the coin.
Regardless, it looks like cannabis farms aren’t the only thing police have to worry about when it comes to stolen electricity.