Chinese police have initiated criminal proceedings against 22 persons for operating illegal cryptocurrency mining, local media outlet Xinhua reports, citing a local police spokesperson.
China has sought to crack down on its mining industry in recent months, which has long flocked to areas with cheap and abundant sources of electricity.
While investigating an unusual surge in electricity consumption in the city of Zhenjiang, the police discovered the facility, which short-circuited the mains to avoid charges. The culprits have plugged the cables into a nearby transformer station after they rented nine factories with installed mining equipment.
The police went to inspect the spot after a local energy supplier reported significant power losses coming from the mining area, nearly 28 percent at peak consumption hours. A search of the area led to the discovery of over 4,000mining computers connected via electrical cables in what the police described as one of the largest power theft case in recent years.
This huge number of Bitcoin mining rigs racked up an electricity bill of nearly 20 million yuan (roughly $2.9 million).
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China once accounted for 70% of all mined bitcoins
China and several countries have recently intensified their efforts to crack down on cryptocurrency mining, which involves an energy-intensive process of solving math problems to add transactions to the blockchain.
This isn’t the first time cryptocurrency miners have been accused of illegally using subsidized electricity in China, which its authorities previously called for an orderly exit from the industry.
The country’s miners have played a significant role in the cryptocurrency ecosystem where they once accounted for 70 percent of all mined bitcoins.
While cryptocurrency mining is not a fraudulent practice in itself, it’s necessary for miners to carry out these operations in compliance with guidelines applicable to their localities.
Despite such reservations, the government supported the underlying blockchain technology to revolutionize economic sectors and even included the technology in its roadmap for the nation’s development by 2020.