China’s crypto mining exodus is showing no sign of slowing down, as two U.S.-listed Chinese companies that only months ago refashioned themselves into cryptocurrency miners announced plans this week to “expand” overseas amid the country’s intensifying crackdowns on the sector.
The9 Limited, a Nasdaq-listed online game operator that pivoted its company business to crypto mining earlier this year, announced on Monday that it had signed a crypto mining hosting agreement through a wholly-owned unit with BitRiver, a Russian crypto mining company.
The9 entered into a two-year contract with BitRiver, in which the Russian firm is set to reserve 15 megawatts of power capacity for The9’s Bitcoin mining machine deployment. Headquartered in Moscow, BitRiver adopts surplus hydroelectric power to operate data centers, and the designated facility for The9’s Bitcoin mining machines has an initial total power supply capacity of 300 megawatts.
Meanwhile, BIT Mining — a New York Stock Exchange-listed corporation that also only months ago became a big investor in crypto mining in China — announced that it had raised US$50 million in a private placement from unnamed institutional and accredited investors to allow it to grow its overseas operations.
BIT Mining said that it intended to use the net proceeds of the private placement to “acquire additional mining machines, build new data centers overseas, expand its infrastructure, and improve its working capital position.”
The9 and BIT Mining were among the formerly non-crypto companies in China that pivoted their business to crypto mining earlier this year when Bitcoin was still in its bull run. BIT Mining, formerly known as 500.com, operated online sports lottery services, but in February, it announced that it was acquiring the entire mining pool business of BitDeer.
The9’s stock closed down 3.25% at $11.02, while BIT Mining closed down 4.93% at $5.21 in U.S. market yesterday.
These crypto mining companies’ moves come as China continues tightening the vise on its crypto mining sector. Just today, a local news outlet in the Chinese eastern province of Anhui reported that the provincial government was planning to carry out a broad campaign to curb crypto mining activities.
According to a June report in Global Times, a news outlet owned by the Chinese Communist Party, these regional bans have already managed to shut down about 90% of China’s Bitcoin mining capacity.
In response, Chinese miners are migrating to countries where they are less unwelcome. Some early favorite destinations for displaced Chinese miners include Kazakhstan, North America and Northern Europe.
According to those in the know, Russia’s cold climate and cheap electricity could also make it a good location for Bitcoin mining — if not for the country’s ambivalent stance toward crypto.
“Russia’s natural environment is good for crypto mining because it is cold there and the country has abundant energy sources, making its electricity price relatively low,” a crypto mining veteran, who asked not to be identified because of the legal sensitivities surrounding the industry, told Forkast.News.
But Russia’s business environment for crypto appears less ideal. “The policy toward crypto mining is inconsistent,” the industry veteran said. “Many Chinese miners suffered losses, and some have lost faith in Russia and would rather go farther to explore other crypto mining locations.”
Wenguang Wang, head of the mining data center at BitDeer — a Singapore-based crypto mining firm that had major operations in China and sold its crypto mining pool business earlier this year to BIT Mining — told Forkast.News that U.S.-listed Chinese crypto mining firms were to some extent already familiar with global expansion, making it easier for them to relocate their operations overseas.
“These Chinese firms held much of their hashrate in China, so their computing power had dropped drastically due to the recent crackdown in the country,” Wang said.
He thinks it is a good sign that crypto mining firms are actively “self-rescuing,” but he also believes that running away from China blindly is not always be the wisest move.
“It may not necessarily be a profitable business, it may lose money,” Wang said. “I hope that Chinese mining companies can save themselves, but they must bear a calm mind.”
Correction: July 21, 2021
An earlier version of this story misstated that BIT Mining acquired two of China’s major mining pools, BitDeer and BTC.com, and that BitDeer was a China-based company. BitDeer is a Singapore-based company that had major operations in China that included BTC.com, which is now part of BIT Mining.