Inside Iran’s Onslaught on Bitcoin Mining


Iran is making an attempt to make crypto mining a supply of revenue for the state, whereas cracking down on miners.

Iran, hit arduous by worldwide sanctions, misplaced income provided by oil exports. Crypto is likely to be a technique to get some additional money, so Iran has been toughening its grip on miners at residence in an effort to raised management this income stream. Since final yr, Iran has additionally opened new alternatives for overseas mining corporations.

Iran is a notable participant on the bitcoin mining market, and through 2020 it contributed nearly 4% of the worldwide bitcoin hashpower, in keeping with research by the College of Cambridge.  

However Iran’s relationship with miners is finest described as difficult. 

On the one hand, Iran clearly sees crypto mining as a technique to generate revenue for the state. Iran started requiring miners to register with the nation’s Ministry of Trade, Mines and Commerce and pay a better tariff on electrical energy than retail or industrial customers final yr. 

However Iran has additionally blamed bitcoin miners for latest energy outages. Simply this month, Iranian authorities reportedly shut down 1,620 unregistered mining farms and confiscated 45,000 mining gadgets. 

CoinDesk takes a deep dive into Iranian mining.

Lights out

In January, Iran skilled numerous power outages. The authorities blamed the outages on bitcoin miners and went for a sweeping assault on miners, large and small. 

Ziya Sadr, Iranian bitcoin advocate and blogger, insists that mining has nothing to do with outages and as a substitute blames authorities mismanagement of the electrical energy grids. “They shut down miners, however we nonetheless have blackouts. So guess what? It’s nothing to do with the miners!” Sadr instructed CoinDesk. 

To make certain, the federal government has stated miners solely devour 2% of Iran’s electrical energy, in keeping with the Associated Press

However the Iranian authorities has additionally claimed miners have made the nation’s energy grid “unstable” since 2019, Radio Free Europe reported. The publication cited Iran’s deputy vitality minister, who stated some mining farms had been based mostly in “colleges and mosques” that obtain electrical energy without cost.

Iranian journalist Ehsan Norouzi wrote in 2019 that the record of entities operating mining operations on free electrical energy may truly be a lot greater: the nation’s elite armed forces, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, management a broad community of spiritual colleges, mosques and different entities that get electrical energy without cost. 

There is no such thing as a proof all of them are mining crypto, Norouzi instructed CoinDesk through a name, however “if there’s free electrical energy there shall be a marketplace for it,” he stated. Again in 2019, Iranians had been sharing images on social networks of not less than one mining farm in a mosque. The federal government requested the mullahs to declare fatwas in opposition to stealing electrical energy. 

Chinese language buyers

Among the many victims of the most recent blackout-related shutdowns is a mining firm that just lately opened a giant farm in one of many nation’s particular financial zones. 

On Jan. 14, a pair days after a nation-wide energy outage, Iranian authorities briefly shut down a mining farm in Rafsanjan, Kerman province, citing the extreme burden on the facility grid. The info middle was licensed by the authorities, in keeping with the native new outlet Mehr News, however was taken offline “with a purpose to handle [power] consumption within the present scenario.”

The farm is operated by the Iran and China Investment Development Group. The group’s web site doesn’t point out crypto mining, solely saying that Iranian and Chinese language buyers are constructing a joint 1 million terabyte datacenter within the Rafsanjan particular financial zone. The concept the Chinese language crypto miners had been accountable for the blackout rapidly unfold on Twitter, prompting some anti-China sentiment, The Diplomat reported.

The Chinese language investor is an organization referred to as RHY, in keeping with Omid Alavi, head of Vira Miners, and Ziya Sadr. Two Iranian miners who needed to remain nameless additionally instructed CoinDesk that it was RHY’s farm that was shut down. 

RHY boasts a number of mining websites, together with some within the Center East, with out specifying the place. On its website, RHY posted a video titled “175 MW Mine,” displaying a number of hangars full of ASICs. A automobile briefly showing within the video has a license plate with Farsi lettering and a flag resembling the Iranian one. 

In line with the electrical energy invoice, translated by The Diplomat, the mining farm consumed just a little in need of 60 megawatt of energy throughout one month. BBC Persian reported an analogous capability for the farm in Rafsanjan.

RHY doesn’t share the corporate’s contact data on its web site, and a customer support chat operator declined to attach CoinDesk to RHY administration or a PR consultant. The operator additionally declined to debate the agency’s Iran enterprise. A request for remark despatched through RHY’s Fb web page went unanswered.

The Rafsanjan farm shut down as a result of after Iran launched the brand new guidelines for miners, the electrical energy tariff went up sharply, Alavi believes.

“The Chinese language got here two years in the past and so they had been searching for low-cost electrical energy,” Alavi stated. “They discovered some place in Kerman and began constructing a giant farm. At the moment, the Iranian authorities didn’t have any regulation in crypto, and so they [the Chinese company] used the economic tariff. After one yr, the federal government began regulation and adjusted the tariff, so the corporate needed to pay new payments.”

An Iranian Telegram channel devoted to miners’ points with authorities mentioned the story in a Jan. 14 submit, writing that “any overseas investor will run away after seeing the remedy of the Chinese language investor in Rafsanjan.”

The channel additionally posted a letter of Mohammad Hassan Ranjbar, chairman of the Board of Administrators of Iran-China Funding Growth Group. In line with Ranjbar, the mining farm in Rafsanjan had been paying 4,000 rials per kilowatt, which is a excessive worth.

“China is presently the one nation that may spend money on Iran as a consequence of sanctions,” Ranjbar stated in that assertion, additionally quoted by Aljazeera. “It’s each wealthy and has expertise, so we might help one another to take a position and construct extra tasks. However we are able to additionally ship them away from Iran and turn into fully remoted and alone on the earth.”

International friends

RHY was not the one Chinese language mining firm in Iran – an array of corporations have been lively within the nation for a few years. In August 2019, miner Liu Feng instructed the Chinese language crypto media outlet 8btc he moved 3,000 of his ASICs to Iran to make the most of the nation’s low-cost electrical energy, $0.006 per kilowatt-hour.

In August 2020, Chinese language mining pool Lubian additionally told 8btc about constructing a mining farm in Iran. Lubian broke into the bitcoin hashrate competitors final spring proper after the most recent bitcoin halving, instantly turning into one of many main mining swimming pools. 

Speaking to 8btc, Lubian co-founder Liu Ping stated the mining pool established a very good rapport with Iranian authorities. 

“We now have our personal customs clearance channels as we’ve got the expertise of building the logistics firm. And we’ve got good native sources in Iran, and we’ve got maintained good relations with the Ministry of Vitality, the Ministry of International Affairs and even the military in Iran,” he said.

It’s not solely Chinese language miners which might be tapping into Iran’s vitality market: In April 2020, Turkish mining agency iMiner reportedly received a license for a 6,000-ASIC farm within the metropolis of Semnan.

Dmytro Ziablov, CEO of Ukrainian mining firm BeeMiner, instructed CoinDesk the corporate is operating a 2-megawatt mining facility in Iran and is planning to increase to 70 megawatts later this yr. BeeMiner obtained internet hosting requests from Chinese language firms, together with Huobi Pool, Ziablov stated: “The Chinese language authorities will get not that pleasant to the miners now and again, so [miners are] fascinated by discovering new locations to mine.” 

Along with the Chinese language miners, Turkish and UAE firms are additionally coming to Iran, Ziablov stated. Requested if it was troublesome to get the farm licensed in Iran, he stated the method took 2.5 months. “It’s arduous, however with some persistence, connections and sources it’s possible,” he added. He stated he didn’t know why the Chinese language farm in Rafsanjan needed to shut down. 

Home challenges

Within the meantime, for small-scale home miners the scenario has been powerful in recent times, in keeping with one long-time miner who talked to CoinDesk anonymously.

Basir (not his actual title) instructed CoinDesk he began mining seven years in the past, however three years in the past, the authorities took discover. In Could 2018, police got here to Basir’s home, he stated, telling him they believe he owned an unlicensed gun. Then they noticed the ASICs. First, the police thought the machines had been “a spy server,” however then the cyber police discovered what they had been coping with.  

In line with him, Basir spent one week in jail, was charged with having unlawful revenue and cash laundering and needed to pay a bail that mainly swept out his household’s wealth. CoinDesk couldn’t independently confirm the small print of Basir’s account. 

“I bought the home, I bought the automobile, I bought the graphic playing cards [that were in my] warehouse on the low worth, gold and financial savings. All was destroyed,” he stated. “My luxurious life changed into a poor life.”

Final yr, the Iranian authorities issued a directive that every one mining services in Iran should register with the federal government. The homeowners should disclose their identities, the dimensions of their farms and what sorts of ASICs they’re utilizing. The federal government has additionally raised the electrical energy tariff from 482 rials to 1,930 for kilowatt per hour (in U.S. {dollars}, from 0.1 cent to 4.6 cents).

In line with the Ministry of Energy, there are presently 24 formally registered mining farms in Iran, consuming 310 megawatt of energy. 

Miners additionally have to register their mining gear, and if it was smuggled into the nation, they should pay the customs charges if these weren’t paid in time, Sadr stated. Till just lately, there merely was no authorized process to import ASICs into Iran in any respect, he added.



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