UK police bust illegal bitcoin mine while hunting for cannabis grow operation

The West Midlands Police had expected to uncover a farm of cannabis, which is illegal to grow, possess, and sell in the United Kingdom. Officers found a bitcoin mining operation instead.

It would have been legal had the owners not been stealing “thousands of pounds” worth of electricity from the main supply to operate it, according to a Thursday news story from the West Midlands Police. 

The police report that the rig showed “classic cannabis factory signs:” substantial heat production, visible wiring and ducts, and numerous people popping in throughout the day. Officers had secured a drug warrant before discovering the operation's true nature.

“It’s certainly not what we were expecting!” Sandwell Police Sergeant Jennifer Griffin was reported saying. “I believe it’s only the second such crypto mine we’ve encountered in the West Midlands.”

Based on pictures presented by the West Midland Police, in which one of the computers had “S9 2016” labeled on it, the bitcoin mining operation appeared to be using the popular AntMiner S9 supercomputers. 

While it’s unclear how long the illegal bitcoin mine had been operating, a single S9 miner produces an estimated $1.55 (1.09 GBP) per day without the cost of electricity. Therefore, the 100 miners could have been producing $155 (109 GBP) per day, or about $4,800 (3,300 GBP) per month.