GOLD RUSH

Photos: Life inside of China’s massive and remote bitcoin mines

Taking advantage of the cheap and plentiful hydroelectric power that an army of computers require, bitcoin mining is spreading in remote parts of China’s Sichuan province. In dark and isolated warehouses, bitcoin mining machines hum along solving equations to produce the highly valued cryptocurrency.

In 2016, Chinese photographer Liu Xingzhe spent time in China’s bitcoin mines and with the miners themselves, who monitor the vast hallways of machines producing cryptocurrency for various clients. According to Liu, miners typically live in company dormitories for days at a time—not unlike the mining towns of yore—only occasionally traveling dozens of miles to the nearest town.

Although increased government oversight has caused Chinese bitcoin trading to falter, the country remains an important player in bitcoin mining, thanks to cheap labor and computing power (paywall). Chinese clients who pay for bitcoins to be mined on their behalf can monitor progress remotely, using apps on their mobile phones.

Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
A bitcoin “mine” with a blue tin roof sits next to a hydroelectric power plant in Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
Packing materials for mining machines pile up beside the water-cooling system at a Bitcoin mine in Sichuan province. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
Packaging for mining machines up in an employee dormitory in Sichuan. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
An employee reassembles a calculation board at a Bitcoin mine in Sichuan province. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
A miner inspects a malfunctioning mining machine during his night shift. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
Employees at a bitcoin mine in Sichuan. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
Bitcoin miner Liu (left) meets with clients at his mine in Sichuan. Liu moved from Henan to Sichuan in 2015 in search of cheaper electricity. Now, he manages more than 7,000 mining machines for clients all over the country. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
Bitcoin miner Kun walks in between aisles of mining machines in Sichuan. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
Mine employees use their phones to play games and watch TV shows nearby. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
A bitcoin mine dormitory in Sichuan. Once a week, they hitchhike to the nearest town, 20 miles away (32 km). “The good thing is, there isn’t anywhere to spend money, so you can save your whole salary,” one miner told Liu Xingzhe. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
Goats from a nearby village walk next to a bitcoin mine’s cooling fans. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
Inside the World of Chinese Bitcoin 'Mining'
A mountain road winds toward Bitcoin mines in Sichuan province. (Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFile/EPA)
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