Media from the Tripoli Attorney General Office’s Facebook page show a dingy-looking, windowless room full of hardware, wires and servers being raided by authorities.
Libyan authorities have detained 50 Chinese nationals in a raid of a crypto-mining operation in the west of the country, the prosecution in Tripoli said Thursday.
Mining is the process of verifying transactions on a crypto blockchain by solving mathematical puzzles, for which miners are rewarded with more of the cryptocurrency. It is an energy-intensive process and requires a lot of hardware and electricity.
Prosecutors said in a statement that Interior Ministry agents were searching a farm in Zliten, 160 kilometers (99 miles) east of the capital and found “minors exploiting significant material capacity to generate virtual currencies with the help of 50 Chinese nationals.”
Photos and a video from the Tripoli Attorney General Office’s Facebook page show a dingy-looking, windowless room full of hardware, wires and servers being raided by authorities. Another photo appears to show the outside of the building, which is long and narrow and has dozens of fans at the back of it to keep the servers cool.
Italian newspaper Agenzia Nova reported that the mining farm was found in an old iron factory.
On Wednesday, prosecutors said police had dismantled another illegal crypto-mining operation in the port city of Misrata, adding it was operated by 10 Chinese nationals.
Libya’s Central Bank banned crypto transactions in 2018 because the market had not yet been regulated by the government and there were concerns that it could attract criminals, including terrorist financiers. Crypto coin mining is also illegal in Libya.
Yet despite it being outlawed, the cheap electricity in Libya has helped make mining — which requires a large amount of electricity — popular in the Maghrebi country. A 2021 study found that 0.6% of all the world’s bitcoin mining operations take place in Libya.
Libya: Dozens of Chinese nationals arrested for cryptocurrency mining
Libyan authorities have arrested 50 Chinese nationals allegedly involved in an illegal cryptocurrency mining operation in the city of Zliten, the Libyan attorney general’s office announced on Friday.
Those arrested were caught running a cryptocurrency mining farm inside an abandoned iron factory on Libya’s western coast, the statement said.
The office of the attorney general, Siddiq Al-Sour, disclosed photos and videos showcasing the process of dismantling substantial mining systems discovered in Zliten, a city east of Tripoli province.
The mining systems included a matrix of wires connecting digital conversion systems, data servers, fans and high-voltage refrigerators.
These latest arrests were announced just after 10 other Chinese nationals were arrested in Misrata on Wednesday after being caught “red-handed” with dozens of powerful computers used to conduct complex mining calculations, which were seized, according to the attorney general’s office.
The attorney general’s office added that these acts “violate the law”, as the alleged perpetrators use “high-energy devices [that] harness a large amount of material to mine cryptocurrencies”.
The statement said that Libyan authorities were seeking the help of experts to assess “the damage to public money and public interest… as a result of the use of high-energy devices and the violation of the rules of monetary policy”.
Despite an official ban on it, Libya recorded the highest percentage across the African continent of cryptocurrency mining, accounting for approximately 0.6 percent of the world’s Bitcoin production in 2021.
Libya is known for its cheap electricity costs, standing at a mere $0.004 per kilowatt hour, which is around 40 times cheaper than the US. This has made Libya an ideal setting for cryptocurrency mining, but has also contributed to the already battered electricity grids in the country due to the political instability plaguing the country for over a decade.
Power blackouts last up to 18 hours a day during the summer months, as authorities intensify their efforts to crack down on such activities, investigating alleged mining sites in Tripoli and Misrata.