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Underground bitcoin mining operations in China lead to resurgence

Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance | May 17, 2022

CCAF Bitcoin mining map - Underground bitcoin mining operations in China lead to resurgence

New mining map data, spanning the period from September 2021 to January 2022, included shows that the US has remained at the forefront of Bitcoin mining and extended its leading position (37.84%) amidst the global hashrate recovery. Following a sudden uptick in covert mining operations after the June 2021 government-mandated ban on Bitcoin mining, China has re-emerged as a major mining hub (21.11%). Kazakhstan (13.22%), Canada (6.48%), and Russia (4.66%) have been relegated to more distant places.

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When we released the last update of the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI), mining map in October 2021 (covering data up to the end of August 2021), the Bitcoin network was grappling with the consequences of the Chinese ban on domestic mining activities. The government crackdown immediately resulted in a harsh decline of the total hashrate – the network’s aggregate computing power – which bottomed at 57.47 Exahashes per second (EH/s) on 27 June 2021.

A new global bitcoin mining landscape

  • Kazakhstan emerged as a popular destination for miners leaving China and quickly turned into a major Bitcoin mining centre, hosting about 18.10% of the network’s total hashrate in August 2021.
  • China: Recent research has suggested that the Chinese decision to ban Bitcoin mining has worsened (rather than improved) Bitcoin’s environmental footprint.
  • Russia on the other hand not only experienced a substantial drop in relative hashrate share from 11.23% in August 2021 to 4.66% in January 2022.  One deterring reason could be perceived political risk given the vocal opposition of the Russian central bank to Bitcoin mining, going as far as lobbying for outlawing this activity.
  • Canada experienced only a moderate increase in its hashrate from 11.54 EH/s in August 2021 to 12.15 EH/s in January 2022, which resulted in a loss in market share from 9.55% to 6.48% as total network hashrate was growing significantly faster.
  • Iran has seen a severe drop in reported hashrate from 3.75 EH/s (3.11%) to 0.23 EH/s (0.12%) in January 2022, making it join the long tail of other countries with sub-1% shares.

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