During a May 18 raid in the UK, West Midlands Police awaited a cannabis cultivation after learning of a location where electricity was stolen on the Great Bridge Industrial Estate. Instead, they found around 100 computers mining cryptocurrency.
The BBC reports that detectives received a tip prior to the robbery. Viewers said they saw several people at the construction site throughout the day and police drones picked up a lot of heat from the building – usually a sign of a growing operation. Western Power Distribution also discovered that the site was illegally plugged into its electricity network and was stealing "thousands of pounds (worth of) electricity."
"It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis growing setup, and I believe it's only the second such crypto mine we've encountered in the West Midlands," said Sgt. Jennifer Griffin said. The authorities confiscated the computers but did not make any arrests.
Crypto mining operations are becoming a problem not just in the UK but around the world. In 2018, New York allowed some electricity companies to charge crypto miners higher fees. In March 2021, New York passed a law banning mining for three years while the state assesses its environmental impact.
These measures are in response to the growing climate problem related to mining coins like Ethereum. Some scientists say the increased demand for cryptocurrency has already wiped out the effects of using electric vehicles.
Recent reports show that some mining operations are bringing in more than $ 20,000 a month, and Nvidia, whose GPUs are often the focus of those mining operations, makes over $ 400 million annually from crypto miners.
It's not just a private company either. Last year, one of the largest Russian oil producers built a Bitcoin mine farm in Siberia that runs entirely on gas.
With the price of multiple cryptocurrencies hitting an all-time high, we are still unsure whether the demand – in terms of power and coins – will continue to rise. Given the volatility in currencies like Bitcoin, some investors believe the market will repeat itself in 2014 and 2018, where high volatility led to mass selling and devalued the coin.
Regardless, it looks like cannabis farms aren't the only thing police need to worry about when it comes to stolen electricity.