The cryptocurrency mining ‘craze’ led to the theft of 600 ‘powerful’ bitcoin miners in the North Atlantic island of Iceland. The machines are valued at nearly $2 million, and authorities have already managed to arrest “some 11 people” in connection to the theft. The miners themselves haven’t been recovered.
According to the New York Times, police say the 600 bitcoin miners were stolen from data centers in the country, in what is being seen as one of the biggest thefts Iceland has ever seen. Local media, according to reports, dubbed it the “Big Bitcoin Heist.”
Authorities have already managed to arrest “some 11 people,” including a security guard. A judge at the Reykjavik District Court ordered two people to remain in custody. Authorities noted that if the 600 miners are used to mine bitcoin they can help those responsible make huge gains, without ever having to sell the machines.
Olafur Helgi Kjartansson, the police commissioner on the southwestern Reykjanes peninsula in the country, where two burglaries occurred, stated:
“This is a grand theft on a scale unseen before. Everything points to this being a highly organized crime.”
The New York Times’ report reveals that there were a total of four burglaries. Three of them occurred in December, while the last one took place in January. Authorities didn’t make the case public until now, as they hoped they could track down the criminals.
In an attempt to gain new leads, police are said to be monitoring electricity consumption throughout the country, as unusually high energy consumption will indicate the bitcoin miners are being used. This is according to an industry source that had to remain anonymous because he isn’t allowed to speak to the media.
Authorities also contacted internet service providers, electricians and storage space unit owners asking them to reveal any unusual requests they may receive.
Iceland is a country that’s set to consume more energy mining cryptocurrencies than powering houses for its 340,000 residents this year. The country’s abundance of renewable energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power plants allows miners to keep electricity costs low.
Moreover, the country’s geographic location, next to the Artic Circle, provides a natural cooling method that stops mining machines from overheating from the computation-heavy hashing algorithms.
In light of these facts, Icelandic lawmaker Smari McCarthy, from the Pirate Party, suggested taxing the profits of bitcoin mining companies. Local cryptocurrency mining firms disagreed with the proposal, as the tax would hurt what are currently very high profit margins. It is thought that electicity consumption will increase in Iceland as long as it remains a lucrative business model.