Tokyo: Already suffering from economic woes and price hikes caused by the US sanctions and government mismanagement, the COVID-19 pandemic, the severe air pollution and now the blackouts, many people in Iran were outraged to learn that the Chinese are supposedly devouring the country’s electricity in their bitcoin mining farms, especially a big one in the city of Rafsanjan in Kerman province, southeast of Iran, reported Japan Times.
The photo of a power bill with an extremely huge price tag, issued for a customer named “Iran and China Investment Company,” has gone viral in recent days. The power bill, which apparently belongs to the Rafsanjan mining farm operated by the Chinese, indicates that the miners have used 58,615,905 kWh of electricity in one month, for which they have to pay over 270 billion rials (some USD 1.2 million).
Bitcoin mining is the process of verifying bitcoin transactions for the reward of the cryptocurrency — it requires a large amount of computing power and thus electricity.
In recent weeks, Iranian power plants have been forced to switch to burning low-grade fuel oil to generate power because a sharp rise in the country’s domestic consumption has led to natural gas shortages. This severely increased air pollution in Tehran and other megacities, increasing public anger toward the government.
Several plants were later shut down after the government ordered a temporary ban on the use of low-grade fuel oil after pollution increased to dangerous levels. However, that resulted in blackouts in various cities, including Tehran, reported Japan Times.
“Social media do their job. [Now] the majority of people are informed that the blackouts are caused by China’s bitcoin mining,” an Iranian user said on Twitter, posting her tweet with the hashtag #ChinaLiedMillionsDied.
The anti-Chinese sentiments gradually reached boiling point, and many Iranians took to social media to angrily criticise the government for its failure to meet the people’s basic need for electricity while “giving away” the country’s power to Beijing, reported Japan Times.
“When we said we are China’s colony, some people felt offended. Now you can see all these bitcoin mining farms. Because of that, you neither have power nor business,” a user tweeted, using the hashtag #Communist_China.
“We thought Iran is no longer an ‘orphanage.’ Now the Chinese are using Iran’s electricity to mine bitcoin, and have literally destroyed our local fishing in the Persian Gulf with their fishing trawlers. Those who once wore shrouds to protest against capitulation have now gifted the country to China,” Iranian political commentator Ehsan Soltani said in a tweet, which he posted along with a video of the Chinese mining farms in Iran.
“China comes to Iran to mine bitcoin, each of which is worth USD 40,000; then we [Iranians] have to wear warm clothes in a dark house while we are breathing mazut (fuel oil). Isn’t that beautiful?” said a user on Twitter, complaining about the severe air pollution in Iranian megacities, which has been mainly caused by the use of low-quality fuel oil in power plants.
Faced with widespread protests, especially on social media, the government finally announced on January 14 that it has halted its supply of electricity to all cryptocurrency mining farms, including the ones operated by the Chinese, for two weeks in a bid to prevent further blackouts.