What is Bitcoin Mining?

Cryptocurrency mining is painstaking, costly, and only sporadically rewarding. Nonetheless, mining has a magnetic draw for many investors interested in cryptocurrency. This may be because entrepreneurial types see mining as pennies from heaven, like California gold prospectors in 1849. And if you are technologically inclined, why not do it?

However, before you invest the time and equipment, read this explainer to see whether mining is really for you. We will focus primarily on Bitcoin.

By mining, you can earn cryptocurrency without having to put down money for it. That said, you certainly don’t have to be a miner to own crypto. You can also buy crypto using fiat currency (USD, EUR, JPY, etc.); you can trade it on an exchange like Bitstamp using another crypto (example: Using Ethereum or NEO to buy Bitcoin); you even can earn it by playing video games or by publishing blog posts on platforms that pay its users in crypto. An example of the latter is Steemit, which is kind of like Medium except that users can reward bloggers by paying them in a proprietary cryptocurrency called Steem. Steem can then be traded elsewhere for Bitcoin.

 

The Second Purpose of Mining

In addition to lining the pockets of miners, mining serves a second and vital purpose: It is the only way to release new cryptocurrency into circulation. In other words, miners are basically “minting” currency. For example, in February of 2019, there were a little over 17.5 million Bitcoin in circulation. Aside from the coins minted via the genesis block (the very first block created by Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto himself), every single one of those Bitcoin came into being because of miners. In the absence of miners, Bitcoin would still exist and be usable, but there would never be any additional Bitcoin. There will come a time when Bitcoin mining ends; per the Bitcoin Protocol, the number of Bitcoin will be capped at 21 million.

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