China set to ban crypto mining in blow to industry

BEIJING • China has signalled its intent to ban cryptocurrency mining, dealing a fresh blow to a sector hit by tumbling virtual currency prices, stiff competition and waning investor interest.

The National Development and Reform Commission - China's economic planner - this week listed crypto mining among a plethora of industries it intends to eliminate because they "seriously wasted resources" or polluted the environment. It is seeking public feedback on the guidelines and indicated that the crypto-mining ban could take effect as soon as they are formally issued. The consultation period ends on May 7.

While China was once home to about 70 per cent of bitcoin mining and 90 per cent of trades, it has waged a nearly two-year campaign to shrink the crypto industry amid concerns over speculative bubbles, fraud and wasteful energy consumption.

After banning initial coin offerings and calling on local exchanges to halt virtual currency trading in 2017, officials outlined proposals last year to discourage crypto mining - the computing process that makes transactions with virtual currencies possible but consumes a lot of power. Beijing was said to have asked local agencies at the time to try to push miners out of business.

The industry, initially drawn to China's inexpensive electricity, chipmaking factories and cheap labour, has begun shifting overseas. Market leader Bitmain Technologies, for instance, has set up mining operations in the United States and Canada.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2019, with the headline 'China set to ban crypto mining in blow to industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe