Police in the U.K. just investigated what they thought was the possible site for a cannabis farm, and in the process, made a surprising discovery—an illegal bitcoin mine.
For those not aware, a bitcoin mine is a data hub that pushes sometimes-illicit bitcoin transactions through. This bitcoin mine was found located on the outskirts of Birmingham in an industrial area. The reason it got confused with an illicit cannabis grow is because they were stealing a lot of electricity, and the location was picked up as generating a lot of heat.
After the initial discovery of a location that generated a lot of heat, police searched the area on May 18, expecting to discover an illegal cannabis grow. They were also keeping an eye on the location and saw many people visiting the unit at various points of the day. They also observed wiring and ventilation ducts, which offered more support that there was a grow inside that was ventilating to help with plant growth.
In addition, during the surveillance, the police noticed a marked pattern and specific signs which made them believe something elicit was going on. They called the heat, the vents and the presence of people opening in “classic signs” of a cannabis farm. A police drone was used to keep an eye on things.
So, following all these signs, police were very surprised to finally go inside and discover 100 computers and no traces of cannabis at all.
“It’s certainly not what we were expecting,” Jennifer Griffin, Sandwell police sergeant, said in a statement. “It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis cultivation set-up and I believe it’s only the second such crypto mine we’ve encountered in the West Midlands.”
Electricity Was Stolen To Power The Bitcoin Mine
Without getting too technical—we’re cannabis experts, after all, not bitcoin experts—the miners use computers to solve complex equations that push a bitcoin transaction through. The “miners” are then paid for their efforts, also in digital currency.
While this may sound like something that a tech-savvy person could do from home, they have to go old school because of how energy-intensive the process is and set up in a warehouse that can handle the amount of power needed. Since bitcoin has a carbon footprint that can be comparable to the country of New Zealand, it takes more than a landline or WiFi connection to keep something like this going.
And, while this isn’t strictly an illegal activity, the stolen power is definitely considered illegal in the U.K. “My understanding is that mining for cryptocurrency is not itself illegal but clearly abstracting electricity from the mains supply to power it is,” Griffin said.
At this time, computer equipment has been seized to stop the operation, but no arrests have been made so far. And it could only be a matter of time before bitcoin mining, and cryptocurrency mining in general, may be outlawed globally. This week, Iran made a move to ban it, blaming the energy used to mine bitcoin for several blackouts that have been happening across Iranian cities.
Iran is also an area where a high amount of bitcoin mining takes place. Around 4.5 percent of all mining globally took place there between January and April this year, making it one of the top-ten countries in the world for mining. China was in first place. But it appears that folks all across the globe do this, and it isn’t an isolated issue. China is also expected to ban cryptocurrency mining and shut down those that are currently up and running.
It looks like crypto may get the crackdown in the U.K., and unfortunately, cannabis grows are still on the police hit list in this non-legal country. Let’s hope for more positive changes soon!
Addison Herron-Wheeler is co-publisher and owner of OUT FRONT Magazine, and web editor of New Noise Magazine. She covers cannabis and heavy metal, and is author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960s to Now and Respirator, a collection of short stories.