Bitcoin mine found by British police in a hashish farm theft

Bitcoin mine discovered during a raid on an industrial plant in the Black Country.

Source: West Midlands Police

LONDON – UK police say they accidentally discovered an illegal bitcoin mine while looking for a cannabis farm.

The mine, which is located in an industrial facility on the outskirts of the English city of Birmingham, stole electricity from the electricity grid, the West Midlands Police said on Thursday.

Police raided the Sandwell unit on May 18 based on information leading them to believe it was being used as a cannabis farm.

Many people visited the unit at different points during the day, police said, adding that numerous cable and ventilation ducts were visible. A police drone also detected a lot of heat coming from the building.

Bitcoin mine discovered during a raid on an industrial plant in the Black Country.

Source: West Midlands Police

These are all “classic signs” of a cannabis farm, police said. However, officers found a bank with around 100 computers and zero cannabis upon entering the building.

“It’s certainly not what we expected,” Sandwell police sergeant Jennifer Griffin said in a statement. “It had all the hallmarks of growing cannabis and I think it’s just the second crypto mine we’ve seen in the West Midlands.”

Bitcoin miners use specially designed computers to solve complex mathematical equations that effectively make a Bitcoin transaction possible. The miners are rewarded for their efforts in the digital currency.

However, the whole process is incredibly energy intensive due to the power consumption of the computers. According to Digiconomist, Bitcoin has a carbon footprint comparable to that of New Zealand and produces 36.95 megatons of CO2 annually.

“My understanding is that mining cryptocurrency itself is not illegal, it is clearly drawing electricity from electricity to electricity,” Griffin said. The term “mains supply” refers to the supply network.

Computer equipment was confiscated, but no arrests were made.

Read more about cryptocurrencies from CNBC Pro

On Wednesday, the Iranian government announced a ban on mining Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as officials blame the energy-intensive process for power outages in a number of Iranian cities.

According to Elliptic, a blockchain analytics company, around 4.5% of all bitcoin mining worldwide took place in Iran between January and April this year. This made it one of the top 10 in the world, while China took first place with almost 70%.

China’s Inner Mongolia Region plans to ban new cryptocurrency mining projects and halt existing activities to reduce energy consumption.

– Additional coverage from CNBC’s Natasha Turak.

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