Kosovo police confiscated more than 350 items of crypto-mining equipment in raids over the past week, including 116 graphic cards, 17 processor boards, 50 electricity fuses, 21 USBEs and two used processors.
“All the equipment were seized and Customs is dealing with the case while the Prosecutor has been also informed,” police announced.
Earlier this month, authorities announced a ban on cryptocurrency mining in a bid to grapple with a national energy crisis caused by skyrocketing global prices. Crypto-mining is extremely energy intensive and involves verifying digital transactions in exchange for cryptocurrency funds; Bitcoin uses more electricity annually than the whole of Argentina, according to analysis by Cambridge University.
Thanks to cheap power prices in recent years, many young Kosovars have turned to crypto-mining to make a living. Before the ban, one young man told reporters he could make up to 2,000 euros ($2,270) a month via crypto-mining, about five times the average monthly income.
“We don’t pay for electricity here, so why not produce [cryptocurrency],” he explained.
In fact, residents of northern Kosovo have not paid for electricity since 1990, when NATO carried out a bombing campaign to end Belgrade’s crackdown on Kosovo’s predominantly ethnic Albanian community. In 2008, Pristina unilaterally declared independence, leaving people living in four municipalities- North Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Zvecan, and Leposavic- in a kind of limbo. Pristina estimates the yearly unpaid bill amounts to some 12 million euros.
As a result, the hum of crypto-mining machines in northern Kosovo have become commonplace in countless neighbourhoods. In the wake of the new rules, however, miners will need to find a new source of income.
Kosovo’s Economy Minister Artane Rizvanolli has described the ban as an “emergency measure” in response to the energy crisis.
“[Crypto-mining] equipment, if it works uninterrupted, uses about 300,000 KW energy in a month, equal to the average consumption of 500 houses,” Minister of Finance Hekuran Murati explained.
At the same time, many have questioned whether the government has a right to ban crypto-mining as Kosov has no law regarding the practice in the first place.
In December last year, Kosovo announced a 60-day state of emergency to manage the energy crisis, made worse by a shutdown at one of Kosovo’s two coal-fired power plants. Demand for natural gas has soared as economies begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply from Russia, meanwhile, has been hampered by strained tensions on the continent.