China is considering a ban on bitcoin mining in the country in response to environmental concerns about the creation process of the cryptocurrency. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in China, which acts as the country's economic planning agency, announced a revised list of 450 industrial activities that it hopes to either encourage or eliminate, with cryptocurrency mining among those earmarked to be phased out. There is no set timetable for bitcoin mining to be eliminated and a public consultation will be open until 7 May. If implemented it could have a profound impact on the bitcoin network, as China is home to the majority of global bitcoin mining operations.
China’s cheap energy, which is largely powered by coal-fuelled power plants, making it a profitable location for bitcoin mining - the process of generating new units of the cryptocurrency by solving complex computational puzzles. Current estimates suggest bitcoin mining consumes more electricity than the entire nation of Ireland, which climate scientists say could push global warming above 2C in just two decades. The loss of mining operations in China could have a significant impact on bitcoin's price, with experts suggesting it could be positive news for bitcoin investors. "If this ban does end up happening, it is more likely to push bitcoin prices up than down," Mati Greenspan, a market analyst at the online trading platform eToro, told The Independent. "The loss of cheat Chinese electricity would raise the mining cost, which is net positive on price." Other experts pointed to the effect the ban would have on bitcoin's global infrastructure. "If local authorities begin targeting mining farms, this could have a substantial impact on bitcoin’s global infrastructure," said Matt Hawkins, CEO of mining software company Cudo Miner. "People talk a lot about the risks of a 51 percent attack, but the problem with accumulating so much as China is that – should it be turned off – the bitcoin network’s performance will be harmed."