In a bunker in Iceland, powerful computers are whirring 24 greg schvey bitcoin mining a day — and extracting an invisible currency. The company behind the operation relies on cheap energy to turn processing power into cash.
On the flat lava plain of Reykjanesbaer, Iceland, near the Arctic Circle, you can find the mines of Bitcoin. To get there, you pass through a fortified gate and enter a featureless yellow building. After checking in with a guard behind bulletproof glass, you face four more security checkpoints, including a so-called man trap that allows passage only after the door behind you has shut. These computers are the laborers of the virtual mines where Bitcoins are unearthed. Instead of swinging pickaxes, these custom-built machines, which are running an open-source Bitcoin program, perform complex algorithms 24 hours a day.
If they come up with the right answers before competitors around the world do, they win a block of 25 new Bitcoins from the virtual currency’s decentralized network. The network is programmed to release 21 million coins eventually. A little more than half are already out in the world, but because the system will release Bitcoins at a progressively slower rate, the work of mining could take more than 100 years. Bitcoins are invisible money, backed by no government, useful only as a speculative investment or online currency, but creating them commands a surprisingly hefty real-world infrastructure. Emmanuel Abiodun, 31, founder of the company that built the Iceland installation, shouting above the din of the computers. We cannot risk that anyone will get to them.