DEC 30, 2023
Indonesian authorities crack down on illegal crypto mining facilities
Recent reports from local media outlets indicate that Indonesian authorities have conducted raids on crypto mining sites, accusing them of illicitly siphoning electricity from the utility poles of the state-owned electricity company. The government’s intervention comes as part of a broader effort to address energy theft and regulate the cryptocurrency mining industry in the country.
Ten mining sites raided
Officials from the state-owned electricity company PLN highlighted the importance of coordinated efforts in exposing the unauthorized mining operations that were tapping into the national grid without approval. According to the reports, the ten illegal bitcoin mining sites which were raided incurred a financial loss of approximately 1.4 billion Indonesian rupees, equivalent to $100,000 for the state.
The impact of energy theft extended beyond financial concerns, raising environmental and community-related concerns. Local students, alarmed by the potential consequences, urged PLN and regional police to investigate the mining operations. Subsequent action revealed that the theft was indeed taking place, prompting PLN officers from the Bukit Barisan Customer Service Implementation Unit (UP3) to conduct a raid. However, the officers faced threats and resistance, leading to a close coordination between PLN and the North Sumatra Regional Police.
The raid uncovered a total of 1,300 bitcoin mining machines engaged in illegal operations, with each machine consuming a substantial 1,800 watts of electricity. Inspector General Agung Effendi, the North Sumatra Police Chief, disclosed that the illicit activities had been ongoing for an estimated six months, resulting in the arrest of 26 individuals across the ten locations.
PLN reassured stakeholders of continued collaboration with the police to prevent further electricity theft and safeguard the national grid from such unauthorized activities.
The incident in Indonesia reflects a global concern over the energy consumption of cryptocurrency mining operations generally, but also with regard to illegal activity. In recent years, the environmental impact of these operations has become a focal point in public policy debates, with climate activists emphasizing the harm caused. Government officials, on the other hand, express concerns about the potential disruption to the total distribution network if not properly regulated.
In September, neighboring Malaysia identified illegal crypto mining activities in the state of Sarawak as the reason for recurrent power disruption. Meanwhile, in Singapore in August, authorities uncovered a crypto mining scam that cheated investors out of $1.3 million dollars.
Indonesia joins other countries that have conducted raids on crypto mining operations accused of running large-scale, unregistered facilities. Malaysia has witnessed multiple arrests related to digital asset mines, while in Venezuela, authorities seized bitcoin machines and weapons from a recaptured prison controlled by a criminal gang.
Legitimate mining potential
Notably, this marks the first such incident in Indonesia, and energy theft charges in the country are punishable by up to five years in prison or 200% of the stolen energy’s value. Despite these problems, Indonesia also understands the opportunity that exists where legal bitcoin mining is carried out. In May, Ridwan Kamil, Governor of the province of West Java, participated in a fireside chat titled “The Indonesia Bitcoin Mining Campaign.”
During that event, Governor Kamil recognized the potential that bitcoin mining offers Indonesia. He stated: “[Indonesia has] the second most geothermal potential in the world — more than 800 rivers with hydropower. As bitcoin allows the transformation of energy into money, bitcoin could be transformative for Indonesia.”
The global trend of addressing energy consumption in crypto mining is evident in Kazakhstan, where regulators seek to limit miners’ access to the national grid unless they operate solar-powered mines. Indonesia, with its pro-crypto population, is also moving towards increased regulation, mandating all crypto exchanges to register with the Commodity Futures Exchange (CFX) to continue operations beyond August 2024.