A group of UK officers who thought they were going to bust up a massive cannabis farm found something completely different behind the doors of a local warehouse: a regular, legal, bitcoin mine.
Law enforcement in West Midlands put out a statement about the case late Thursday explaining how—at least from the outside—the mining operation showed all the “classic signs” of a canna-farm. Lots of people were “visiting the unit at different times of day,” the officers wrote, before adding that the warehouse had “lots of wiring and ventilation ducts,” visible from the outside. When they flew a police drone above the building, they also found a “considerable” amount of heat being given off by whatever was happening inside.
So when they busted the warehouse door down on May 18th, you can probably imagine their surprise when there wasn’t a pot leaf to be found anywhere in the space. What they did find were roughly 100 specialized bitcoin-mining machines stacked atop each other and churning away.
“It’s certainly not what we were expecting!,” said Sandwell Police Sergeant Jennifer Griffin in a statement. She said that this was “only the second such crypto mine,” that police in the area encountered—implying that this isn’t the first time that local officers had been duped.
While cannabis farming is illegal throughout the UK, Griffin said that crypto-mining certainly isn’t. Still, the force was able to seize the rig after they found that the operation was being powered using a massive amount of stolen electricity from nearby buildings—and they don’t plan on giving it back anytime soon. In their statement, the officers stated that they were looking to “permanently seize” the roughly 100 devices under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The officers didn’t say how much electricity the operation was stealing, but chances are it was a whole lot. It takes a ton of power to operate a basic mining rig, with one recent study finding that the average energy used to churn out cryptocurrency annually is greater than the energy consumed by countries like Austria and Finland. And in the past, researchers have found that the energy consumption from crypto-mining is actually way more intensive than massive energy drain that comes with mining actual precious metals.
Per the police, nobody was in the unit at the time of the bust, and no arrests have been made—yet. Suffice to say while the person who owns the warehouse might be miffed that their operation was shut down, crypto’s currently plunging prices mean that they probably didn’t lose out on much.