Photo report: an insight into the world of cryptocurrency mining


Arvin Chinsalkar is an astrologer from Palahalli village in Mandya district, Karnataka. The whitewashed walls of the 26-year-old’s tiled house have turned black from smoke billowing from the homa kund in the middle of the hallway. When people come to him for solutions, mostly ways to improve their finances, he gives them cryptic yantras.

Unlike the hall walls, Arvin’s bedroom is painted in accordance with the vaastu shastra. The room, where he meditates daily, is quiet except for the roar of countless minifans of a strange contraption sitting beneath the painting of an enraged bull. The minifans also emit colored lights and give off heat. The machine works 24/7 and improves Arvin’s finances. It is a cryptocurrency mining platform.

The mining rig solves complex mathematical problems. Every problem it solves approves cryptocurrency transactions on a global network. It’s part of a public accounting process; the ledger is called blockchain. Miners are individuals who dedicate a computer to the process. As a reward for keeping the public ledger alive, they receive transaction fees and a tiny portion of the new cryptocurrency.

Indians are increasingly joining the growing community of cryptominers. But mining requires significant computing power. This created a demand for graphics processing unit (GPU) cards, hardware that speeds up computing. A mining rig requires many GPUs. Kishan Rajpurohit, owner of Super Computers and Laptops, on SP Road in Bengaluru, says miners have replaced gamers as the main consumers of GPUs and are willing to pay double that.

However, demand has been falling since January 2022, Kishan says. “Because of the fall in cryptocurrency prices after rumors of a ban, followed by the war in Ukraine,” he explains. “But, there are people hoarding crypto for the future. They continue to operate despite the decline in value.

For Indian miners, Ethereum is the preferred currency. Indeed, the availability of mineable Bitcoin is decreasing. It is limited to 21 million, of which only two million remain.

Shakeeb Ahmed, 30, a hardware engineer from Bengaluru, started mining two years ago with an investment of 050 lakh. He made a profit and started a company called Wingz Digital with his friend Shoaib Ahmed. They build custom mining rigs for people who want to start cryptomining. “I have no intention of selling any crypto assets,” Shakeeb says. “The longer I keep them, the more valuable they become.”

A common thing between earth mining and cryptomining is environmental damage. Cryptomining massively increases electricity consumption, contributing to increased greenhouse gas emissions. But there are miners like Zeeshan Raza who use sustainable energy. Zeeshan lives in Gauribidanur, one of the hottest regions of Karnataka, and uses the climate to his advantage. He installed 30 solar panels and 24 batteries; they produce around 6kW of power, which is enough to run its 31-GPU rig.

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” This quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the man whose portrait appears on the $100 bill, the most denominated currency in the United States. The polymath played a key role in the study of electricity. Today, electricity plays a major role in the evolution of the concept of money. But, while electricity evolved with Franklin’s contributions, silver evolves with the participation of the common man – Arvin, Shakeeb, Zeeshan and millions of other miners.


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