Are the mines profitable?

Cryptocurrency mining seems like a no-brainer. Set up a computer to help solve complex mathematical puzzles and be rewarded with a coin or a fraction of a coin. Early bitcoin miners were able to earn coins relatively quickly using the computing power they had at home. Bitcoin mining is the process by which new bitcoins are created, a process that has a limit of 21 million BTC, according to the Bitcoin protocol.

As time goes on, mining Bitcoin becomes more difficult, as more miners compete for the reward of the next block. Today, mining Bitcoin individually is rarely profitable, unless someone has access to additional low-cost electricity. There are several web-based profitability calculators, such as the one provided by CryptoCompare, that aspiring miners can use to analyse the cost-benefit equation of Bitcoin mining. As Bitcoin reaches its projected limit of 21 million (expected around 2140), miners will be rewarded with transaction processing fees paid by users of the network.

Then, as Bitcoin's hash rate increases due to more miners coming online, the difficulty adjustment (which occurs every two weeks) tends to increase. In the long term, although miners' revenues can fluctuate with the price of the currency, Zhang also noted that mining revenues have fallen by only 17 percent since the peak of the bitcoin price in April, while the price of the currency has fallen by around 50 percent. If a miner manages to add a block to the blockchain, he or she will receive 6.25 bitcoins as a reward. These transactions provide security to the Bitcoin network, which in turn compensates miners by giving them bitcoins.

The whole episode was considered a black swan for the industry and, according to cryptocurrency miner Alejandro de la Torre, it also made a lot of people much richer. But the price of bitcoin has been very volatile, making it difficult or impossible for miners to know the value of their payment when they receive it. Cryptocurrency mining companies, including Marathon Digital and Hut 8, outperformed other cryptocurrency-linked stocks on Tuesday as the economics of miners remain lucrative. Because of the high cost and increasing difficulty of mining bitcoin, most miners today use something called a mining pool.

Since bitcoin mining is essentially guesswork, getting to the right answer before another miner has almost everything to do with how fast your computer can produce hashes. As a result, many bitcoin miners have moved their operations to locations with renewable energy sources to reduce bitcoin's impact on climate change. After securing Bitcoin mining equipment and the electricity needed for mining, a small miner will need to find a suitable mining pool. ASICs consume enormous amounts of electricity, which has drawn criticism from environmental groups and limits the profitability of miners.

Even with the newest unit at their disposal, a computer is rarely enough to compete with mining pools, groups of miners who combine their computing power and divide the mined bitcoin among the participants. With growing awareness of climate change, several miners have moved their operations to regions that use renewable energy sources to produce electricity.

David Gerula
David Gerula

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