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A suspected Bitcoin "mining" operation illegally stealing electricity has been found by police who were searching for a cannabis farm.

Officers had been tipped off about the site on the Great Bridge Industrial Estate, Sandwell, and raided it on 18 May, West Midlands Police said.

Instead of cannabis plants they found a bank of about 100 computer units.

The force said the cryptocurrency "mine" had stolen thousands of pounds of electricity.

Inquiries with network operator Western Power Distribution found the electric supply had been bypassed.

One of the computer servers
IMAGE COPYRIGHTWEST MIDLANDS POLICE
image captionThe Bitcoin "mining" operation had stolen thousands of pounds of electricity, police said
Detectives said they were tipped off about lots of people visiting the unit throughout the day and a police drone picked up a lot of heat coming from the building.


Sgt Jennifer Griffin said, given the signs, they had expected to find a cannabis farm.

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"It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis cultivation set-up and I believe it is only the second such crypto mine we have encountered in the West Midlands," she said.

The computer equipment has been seized but no arrests have been made, the force said.

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What is Bitcoin?
Representations of the virtual currency Bitcoin stand on a motherboard
IMAGE COPYRIGHTREUTERS
Bitcoin is a form of digital money, a cryptocurrency, which was first published as an idea in 2008.

It operates on the blockchain - a digital ledger of transactions - and miners audit Bitcoin transactions in exchange for an opportunity to acquire the digital currency.

This process consumes large amounts of electricity as it requires enormous computing power.

To increase profits, people often connect large numbers of "miners" to the network - even entire warehouses full of them.

Bitcoin's electricity consumption is currently greater than The Netherlands', according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index.

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