Europe's energy crisis has been exacerbated by rising energy prices. In Kosovo, one of the poorest countries in Europe, the beginning of power outages led to a government ban on bitcoin mining. Miners decided to sell their equipment or move their computing power abroad.
Kosovo follows China in cracking down on miners while Kazakh miners suffer losses
Kosovo is the last country to take tough measures against mining after facing high energy prices.
According to a Gazetta Express news report, Kosovo confiscated more than four hundred devices used to mine cryptocurrencies in early January.
Notably, mining of the world's leading cryptocurrencies requires computing machines with the best microchips on board to solve complex tasks. At the same time, electricity remains the biggest operating cost for bitcoin miners.
Ardian Alaj, co-owner of a cryptocurrency exchange in Kosovo's capital Pristina, says he has heard of offers to sell equipment by miners after the ban went into effect and the raid conducted by the authorities. There are also those who are transporting or planning to transport equipment to other countries in order to set up production there.
However, for many miners in the new locations, conditions will not be so favorable.
"Moving operations abroad would create additional costs the local miners are not accustomed to," Alaj said.
"Mining was done in Kosovo, because it was possible to do it illegally," Alaj said. It was also cheap: the northern region of Mitrovica, a popular hub for crypto mining, is one of the four Serb-majority parts of the country that exempts citizens from electric bills.
Obviously, the eurozone is becoming less profitable for miners as energy prices rise. This also means that the energy supply crisis may lead to a new repression of bitcoin, giving preference to less energy-intensive tokens.
Kazakhstan is letting its miners down
The bitcoin mining boom in Kazakhstan ended even faster than it began. In August 2021, Kazakhstan became the second largest bitcoin mining country in the world after the United States (according to the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance).
In total, there are about 50 cryptocurrency mining data centers registered in Kazakhstan. As of October, they were consuming nearly 700 megawatts of electricity. However, the Ministry of Energy reported that there were also shady data centers, known as gray miners, that consumed an additional 250 megawatts.
As a result, the surge in consumption exhausted the country's resources, and the state, which had become a popular base for miners fleeing China, adopted similar measures to those of Kosovo late last year.
Power outages in Kazakhstan forced the authorities to impose tight restrictions on the mining industry. Such a rapid reversal just six months after the Chinese crackdown destroyed Kazakhstan's reputation as one of the cheapest places to mine cryptocurrency, even though this year's bitcoin growth made mining more profitable.
"It's like night and day," said Almas Chukin, partner at Almaty-based private equity firm Visor Kazakhstan, which has invested in the construction of renewable energy and data centers. "There's zero potential for Bitcoin mining at the moment in Kazakhstan."
Officially, there is no ban on BTC mining in Kazakhstan. In October, the Ministry of Energy considered a draft order to limit energy consumption by new cryptocurrency miners, but after a public discussion abandoned the initiative. Instead, the current legislation was amended to allow the grid operator Kegoc to limit or reduce the power supply to cryptocurrency miners in case of power shortages and to avoid emergencies.
Now crypto miners are not prosecuted, they are simply disconnected from the network in case of its overload.
For example, Didar Bekbauov, the manager of the Almaty-based Xive mining company, was asked about the company's activities in September. After the metallurgical site, where Xive and three other mining companies were located, filled out government documents on their activities, power supply simply began to be cut off. At first the miners stayed without power about 50% of the time, then 80%. After a few weeks, the power went off completely.
As a result, Bekbauov had to close the larger of his two mining sites in southern Kazakhstan. He also reported that some of his investors had shipped their machines out of the country to Russia and the US.
Nevertheless, given the increasing pressure from US lawmakers on the crypto industry, it is possible that the second option will turn into problems for miners as early as next year, including due to the poor judgment of the largest representatives of the industry.