Bitcoin’s mining system is in a delicate balance. A new report shows the cost of a single token of the cryptocurrency is around $8,500, while the cost of actually mining said token is $8,038. If Bitcoin drops further, it could mean a drop in the number of miners online and a reduction in the computing power for transactions.
“In some cases the miners may simply turn off the machines until the price comes back a bit,” Shone Anstey, co-founder and president of Blockchain Intelligence Group, told CNBC on Thursday. “It’s got to be getting to the point that some of them may be losing money.”
Bitcoin, first outlined in a 2008 white paper by anonymous author Satoshi Nakamoto, depends on a decentralized structure to keep running. “Miners” put their computer hardware to work on the network, solving complex math problems in exchange for tokens. The hardware is used to add new transactions to the blockchain and continue the cryptocurrency without using a single server. The system is based on the idea that miners will cover the costs of electricity and hardware by selling the tokens, but that’s dependent on the token price making it worth the venture.
A model produced by Fundstrat shows this balance on the edge. The model assumes a price of six cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity to arrive at a figure of $8,038. More than half of the cost is for regular equipment costs that can keep up with more powerful hardware.
However, there are reasons to believe Bitcoin miners can weather the storm. For a start, Fundstrat’s report shows Bitcoin previously traded at break-even costs back in January 2015, when the coin was at a price of $200. Not only did it survive, but it reached peaks of [nearly $20,000 by December 2017] (https://www.inverse.com/article/42338-bitcoin-value-drop-four-days). Miners also have alternate revenue streams: Users looking to exchange faster can pay transaction fees, for example. It may look borderline unprofitable, but Bitcoin’s unlikely to lose all its computing power just yet.