China's cryptocurrency-mining crackdown spreads to Sichuan

Cryptomining is big business in China, accounting for more than half of global Bitcoin production.
Cryptomining is big business in China, accounting for more than half of global Bitcoin production.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (REUTERS) - China's crackdown on cryptocurrency "mining" has extended to the south-west province of Sichuan, where the authorities ordered cryptocurrency mining projects closed in the major mining centre.

Cryptomining is big business in China, accounting for more than half of global bitcoin production. But the State Council, China's Cabinet, last month vowed to clamp down on Bitcoin mining and trading as part of a series of measures to control financial risks.

Other popular mining regions, such as Inner Mongolia, have cited cryptocurrency mining's use of electricity generated from highly polluting sources such as coal in orders targeting the industry.

Friday's move in Sichuan - where miners mostly use hydropower to run the specially designed computer equipment used in verifying Bitcoin transactions - suggests the crackdown is more broadly based.

The Sichuan Provincial Development and Reform Commission and the Sichuan Energy Bureau issued a joint notice, dated on Friday and seen by Reuters, demanding the closure of 26 suspected cryptocurrency mining projects by Sunday.

Sichuan is China's second-biggest Bitcoin mining province, according to data compiled by the University of Cambridge. Some miners move their activities there in the rainy summer to take advantage of its rich hydropower resources.

The notice orders state electricity companies in Sichuan to conduct inspections and make corrections, reporting their results by Friday. They are to immediately stop supplying electricity to cryptomining projects they have detected.

The authorities urged local governments in Sichuan to start combing for cryptomining projects and shut them down. It banned new projects.

Other regional mining centres including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Yunnan have ordered crackdowns on Bitcoin mining.

Friday's notice appears to indicate that Beijing's displeasure with cryptocurrency mining extends beyond cases where it uses electricity generated by burning coal.

"Renewable power does not help," said Mr Winston Ma, NYU Law School adjunct professor and author of the book, The Digital War.

"The four largest mining regions - Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Yunnan and Sichuan - have implemented similar crackdown measures, even though mining in the latter two are mostly based on hydropower, whereas the first two are on coal," Mr Ma told Reuters.

Some miners have been considering moving elsewhere due to the crackdown.