Cannabis farms concealed inside houses are pretty distinctive. High temperatures, constant humidity, sealed rooms to control odors, and vents to maintain the microclimate are all hallmarks of those that house many plants, and this is certainly known to police. As such, using infrared cameras and drones, police can home in on illegal farms with ease – but they might not always be what they seem.
After West Midlands police gained intelligence suggesting a resident was growing cannabis on an industrial estate in Sandwell, UK, police officers gained a warrant and attended the area expecting to find a swathe of cannabis plants. Instead, they found a large cryptocurrency mining rig of around 100 units, all mining for bitcoin.
“It’s certainly not what we were expecting! 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.” said Sandwell Police Sargent Jennifer Griffin, in a statement.
The equipment used in the operation was all seized on grounds of illegal electricity consumption. According to the police, inquiries into the local electricity supplier uncovered thousands of pounds worth of power stolen from the mains supply to power the large rig, and the officers are now pursuing a case to permanently seize all the units discovered.
“My understanding is that mining for cryptocurrency is not itself illegal but clearly abstracting electricity from the mains supply to power it is,” said Griffin.
The police are now on the hunt for the owner of the operation.
“We’ve seized the equipment and will be looking into permanently seizing it under the Proceeds of Crime Act. No-one was at the unit at the time of the warrant and no arrests have been made – but we’ll be making enquiries with the unit’s owner.”
Bitcoin has come under heavy fire in recent months, as the crypto market hit a peak in early May and Bitcoin continued to rise. However, following news of a changing attitude in China and a tweet from Elon Musk claiming Tesla will no longer accept Bitcoin (citing environmental concerns), the crypto market took a sharp hit and many coins were significantly impacted. At the time, Bitcoin mining was using more electricity than Argentina, which troubled environmentalists.
As cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum transition to more environmentally-friendly methods, it remains to be seen whether the market can bounce back.
In the meantime, if you are considering mining for crypto, make sure to source electricity legally.
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