Major Bitcoin Mining Heist in Iceland – Eleven Arrested

Many are questioning the benefits of hosting the power-hungry industry on the island.

More than 600 cryptocurrency mining devices have been stolen in Iceland in what local police are calling a “highly organized crime”, according to The Associated Press.

The robberies took place at four data centres in Reykjanesbær and Borgarbyggð, according to Iceland Monitor, and eleven people have been arrested so far. The devices, as yet unrecovered, are worth almost 2 million USD.

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“This is a grand theft on a scale unseen before,” said Reykjanes police chief Olafur Helgi Kjartansson.

Bitcoin mining is booming in Iceland due to cheap electricity and a cold climate (the cold increases the efficiency of mining computers, that easily overheat). The country hosts offices for several Chinese mining companies, and the country recently welcomed its first Bitcoin ATM, launched at a hotel run by a German. Klaus Ortlieb said: “I thought it was an interesting idea because it can be hard to change Icelandic kronur [sic] into a different currency abroad. Instead of going to the bank, the hotel guests can change Icelandic kronas into bitcoin before leaving Iceland.”

However Iceland, population 336,888, may find the new industry unsustainable. All of its energy is generated by renewable sources – hydro, geothermal, wind – and the needs of large-scale cryptocurrency mining could outstrip the supply.

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Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson, a spokesman for Icelandic energy firm HS Orka, said that Iceland’s homes require approximately 700 gigwatt hours ever year, while the mining industry will need around 840: “If all these projects are realised, we won’t have enough energy for it,” he said to the BBC.

In fact, the CEO of Genesis Mining, a German firm that recently opened three mining facilities in the country, speculated back in 2016 that his company could be one of Iceland’s biggest single users of power, according to Business Insider.

This, and the fact that mining companies don’t pay tax as businesses usually do, has led to some questioning whether the proliferation of the industry in the country is a positive thing at all. Pirate Party MP Smári McCarthy told The Associated Press: “Under normal circumstances, companies that are creating value in Iceland pay a certain amount of tax to the government. These companies are not doing that, and we might want to ask ourselves whether they should.”

The appearance of tangible crime on the scene is unlikely to gain the industry any popularity.

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