In an audacious scenario that spotlights the clandestine world of cryptocurrency mining, 50 Chinese citizens have been taken into custody by the Libyan authorities.
Their apprehension follows accusations of them orchestrating a crypto mining operation in Zliten, a city located in the east of the Tripoli province. The illicit operation was reportedly dismantled, marking a significant crackdown on illegal mining activities in the region.
Crypto mining under scrutiny: Unearthing an unlawful operation
The unraveling of the crypto mining operation paints a remarkable tale. Situated within the confines of a deserted iron factory, the crypto mining outfit stood in clear defiance of Libya’s legal restrictions on such activities.
The detainees were allegedly engaged in a complex operation harnessing significant material capacity to generate virtual currencies.
The revelation was brought into public light on June 23, 2023, when a report by The New Arab detailed the arrest. The Libyan attorney general’s office confirmed the apprehension of these Chinese individuals allegedly implicated in the crypto mining operation.
Siddiq Al-Sour, the attorney general, presented visual evidence including photographs and videos, bringing to light the extent of the mining campus.
Prior to this, ten individuals affiliated with the operation were arrested, suggesting that the scope of the illegal mining activities was potentially more extensive than initially perceived.
The unseen cost of crypto mining: A tale of two cities
As part of the crackdown, Libyan authorities also announced the dismantling of another illegal crypto-mining farm in the port city of Misrata. This operation was allegedly managed by ten Chinese nationals, further substantiating the country’s struggle with illegal cryptocurrency operations.
Contrary to the high-tech image of crypto mining, the discovered sites revealed a different reality. They consisted of structures without windows, yet filled with dozens of industrial fans, a vast array of computers, and substantial hardware.
It brought attention to the stark contrast between the glamor of cryptocurrency and the hard-hitting reality of its creation.
These sites, which normally operate continuously, require robust servers, a reliable internet connection, and costly equipment. Libya, still grappling with the scars of war, struggles with regular power cuts and unstable internet speeds, raising questions about the logistics behind such operations.
The world’s most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, requires approximately 1,150 kWh of electricity per unit to mine, as per tech watchdog Digiconomist.
Given Libya’s energy challenges, the existence and sustainability of these illicit mining operations underscore an insidious facet of the crypto world.
The issue of crypto mining is not unique to Libya. Many countries worldwide, including China—once a global leader in producing virtual currencies—have banned crypto mining.
Since June 2021, China has enforced stringent restrictions against crypto mining, leading to the displacement of many involved in the industry.
The Central Bank of Libya banned cryptocurrency transactions in 2018, pending legislation to regulate its use. However, as this incident demonstrates, the challenge of illegal mining continues to haunt the North African country.
As Libya grapples with the aftermath of this incident, it also draws attention to the broader, global issue of regulating crypto mining and enforcing existing laws.