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China’s Inner Mongolia has banned cryptocurrency mining and declared its intention of shutting all such projects by April, spurring fears the world’s No. 2 economy will take more steps this year to eradicate the power-hungry practice.
The autonomous region, a favorite among the industry because of its cheap power, also banned new digital coin projects, according to a draft plan posted on the Inner Mongolia Development and Reform Commission’s website Feb. 25. The aim is to constrain growth in energy consumption to about 1.9% in 2021.
The announcement unnerved an industry that’s already been through a years-long Chinese campaign to shrink it down amid concerns over speculative bubbles, fraud and energy waste. The draft policy was released weeks after the National Development and Reform Commission — China’s top economic planner — blasted Inner Mongolia for being the only province to fail to control energy consumption in 2019.
The region now aims to cut emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 3% this year and control incremental growth of energy consumption at about 5 million tons of standard coal, according to the draft plan.
Chinese officials first outlined proposals in 2018 to discourage crypto-mining — the computing process that makes transactions with virtual currencies possible but consumes vast amounts of power.
Inner Mongolia, which is clustered with large coal mines, is famous for inexpensive energy and has attracted investment from a plethora of power-intensive sectors such as aluminum and ferro-alloy smelting over past decades. The region accounted for 8% of global Bitcoin mining computing power, according to the Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index compiled by Cambridge University. China overall had over 65% of the network’s total, with its appealing combination of inexpensive electricity, local chipmaking factories and cheap labor.
The local crackdown is reviving old fears. Beijing since 2017 has abolished initial coin offerings and clamped down on virtual currency trading within its borders, forcing many exchanges overseas. The country was once home to about 90% of trades but the lion’s share of mining, but major players like Bitmain Technologies Ltd. have since fled abroad.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Nvidia Corp. are among listed chipmakers that supply crypto miners in China and around the world.