Crash and Burn: The Ruthless Bitcoin Mining Industry

Put it this way – the Bitcoin mining is not for the faint of heart.

Mining was once a hobbyist activity for crypto enthusiasts running Bitcoin nodes for fun and a sense of community more than to make money. Sure, there were always believers, but many people were just excited at the prospect of making their own, as Bitcoin godfather Andreas Antonopoulos calls it, “nerd money” without ever really considering the possibility that one day a Bitcoin would be worth even a single cent, let alone thousands of dollars.

How things have changed!

Mining is now a multi-billion dollar industry, with extreme risks and cut-throat competition. pressure of the bear market causing operations to mine at a loss, hoping for the best and in a bizarre but understandeable turn of events, even leading some miners to short the Bitcoin market to hedge against losses.

One of the criticisms of Bitcoin mining is that it favors the wealthy miners more and more as time goes on, with smaller operations being squeezed out in favor of huge, sprawling mining farms worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The competitive and unforgiving nature of the industry was quite dramatically illustrated by the rise and fall of heavyweight mining hopeful GMO Internet, which proudly announced the production of an ASIC miner with higher performance capabilities than the Bitmain S9.

GMO Internet Takes On The World

GMO Internet probably thought they had it made. They had just released a miner more powerful than that of the most powerful mining company on the planet – what could go wrong?

The company’s downfall is beautifully described in a blow-for-blow tweetstorm written by Yasmine Elmandrja of ARKInvest:

Here’s what happened:

GMO didn’t just announce the launch of their new 7 nm miner, but boldy declared war on Bitmain while they were at it. While stating that they had respect for their top competitor, GMO said they would “top Bitmain” which is worth $12 billion USD at last count and become the number one leader in Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturing.

And Fails

Unfortunately for GMO, Bitmain’s S9 wasn’t the only competition – just the most visible one. Bitmain is large enough to lose and still win, absorbing failed experiments into the gigantic budget they’ve generated through years of success and market dominance. While GMO Internet is actually a larger company, their foray into Bitcoin mining was short lived.

GMO failed to do their homework – they beat the S9 alright, but so did several other mining companies whose products are portrayed in the chart above.

More accurately, the net present value (NPV) or profitability over time of those products is shown in the chart. You’ll find those competitors on the profitable side of the chart – unlike GMO.


Crash And Burn

The least profitable of six different products, GMOs miner launch was a massive failure which gained no traction, took gargantuan losses, and the internet giant ended up having to crash out of the mining industry altogether, selling off its machines wholesale and announcing a staggering loss of $218 million USD.

The whole mess goes to highlight the incredibly high stakes of the industry and the ever-shifting and improving standard of hardware quality. GMO Internet will live, but taking such a huge loss after announcing world domination is bound to have wounded the company’s pride and coffers a little, yet another casualty of the brutal “crypto winter” that continues to impact companies throughout the industry.

Mining Wars – Bitmain vs Halong

Cryptocurrency mining is a huge global industry, with Bitcoin mining alone generating over $2 billion in revenue last year.

Such a field is obviously highly competitive, and while there is one giant monopolizing the lions share of the industry, a number of other companies are stepping up to the plate as well leading to a global power struggle for one of the fastest growing industries in the world.


Bitmain caters to the majority of Bitcoin miners with their innovative ASIC miners, specialized hardware engineered specifically to solve the computational puzzles on the Bitcoin network in a process required to verify transactions and generate new Bitcoins.

The company is based in China and headed up by Jihan Wu, a controversial figure in the Bitcoin space accused by BTC advocates of supporting the BTC/BCH fork in order to try and centralize the currency in order to consolidate power for his own personal gain. His detractors often feel that he is far too powerful a figure in what is supposed to be a decentralized movement, with his mining pool Antpool controlling 16.4% of the BTC hashrate and transaction-verification power.

However, many BCH supporters view him as a champion of their cause in supporting what they consider to be the version of Bitcoin originally envisioned by Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakomoto.

Wu’s Antminers are very powerful hardware, with an ever-expanding range of models designed to deal with the increasing difficulty of crypto-mining. In May of 2016, Antminer S9, the world’s first consumer-grade bitcoin and most power-efficient miner based on a 16nm process ASIC chip was released by Bitmain.

Antminer S9 is estimated to have the capacity to significantly reduce the cost of mining Bitcoin and make it profitable, something which may prove crucial to the network now that many Bitcoin miners are beginning to mine at a loss due to falling prices and rising electricity costs due to competition and increased difficulty.

Halong Mining

Halong is a far more secretive organization, in ways that are only really accepted in the cryptocurrency world. The identity of the CEO and team as well as the location of the company headquarters is unknown, leading to prominent Bitcoin figure Cobra Bitcoin calling the project a scam in a Medium post in March 2018. The project was however endorsed by Blockstream CEO on Twitter:

The interests of Blockstream and Bitmain are at odds due to Wu’s support of BCH which arguably contributed to Back’s endorsement.

So which company has the better hardware?

Antminer S9 (Bitmain)

DragonMint 16T (Halong)

So the Antminer S9 comes in at just under $2,900 with a capacity of 1.5 TH/s with a power draw of 1375 watts with an annual return of 2%  while the Dragonmint T1 costs $2,700 with 16 TH/s capacity and a 1480 watt power draw and an annual return of 6%, making the T1 faster and more profitable.

According to cryptocompare the S9 will return the original investment after 4804 days while the T1 only takes 3,138 to pay back the $2,700. These numbers are subject to change as hash power on the network adjusts. The T1s are currently sold out with no info as to when the next batch is due in. The announcement on the site reads:

The DragonMint 16T miner is the world’s most efficient Bitcoin miner, running faster and cooler than any competing miners. It’s the culmination of over 12 months research and development which has resulted in major advancements in mining technology including a brand new generation of ASIC mining chips. The DM8575 ASIC runs at a staggering 85GH per chip with power efficiency of around 0.075J/GH.

Other miners

As you might expect, it’s not all down to Halong and Bitmain.

Crypto Compare lists a number of mining setups with price tags ranging as high as $30,000 (although those models have longer ROI periods of around 17,000 days with current prices).

BitFury is another company worth keeping an eye on – a US-based company aiming to compete with the giant that is Bitmain along with the newcomer Halong.

Crypto mining is currently in a bit of a rut due to the inverse relationship between the bear market prices and the competitive industry creating higher mining costs and lower ROIs, a far cry from the early days when even a basic setup could net $5 a day.

Cloud mining projects have started to pop up offering people unrealistically high ROIs of 2% a day or even higher, the vast majority if not all of which are scams.

It seems likely that the days of the individual miner are drawing to a close as industrial mining becomes the only viable way to make a profit. Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire said:

“We’re at the institutional scale today. We’ll see investments grow to billions of dollars in coming years. We’ll see the mining pools move from being run by hobbyists to being run by large companies.”

OddoCash, Terraminer, and Miner One are all companies offering investors a stake in crypto mining without having to front the cash for mining equipment individually, but the current consensus is that industrial mining will take over small-scale operations as the only viable way to profitably mine cryptocurrencies and continue to validate transactions on PoW currencies, arguably enhancing the use case for PoS currencies that don’t require high-powered mining operations at all.