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What is Bitcoin Mining? A Brief Introduction

By RAIN EDITORIAL TEAM - Jun 05, 7:00 PM

Getting started with Bitcoin mining can be challenging, and staying in profit, even more so. It is a fairly technical process and requires considerable resources and computing power. In theory, anyone can mine Bitcoin as long as they can invest in specific equipment dedicated to Bitcoin mining and learn how to run a successful mining operation. While mining equipment is expensive, a strategic approach could allow you to support the Bitcoin network while also enabling you to make a profit. In this guide, we will look at all the necessary aspects of Bitcoin mining. 

What Is Bitcoin Mining?

Bitcoin mining is how the network confirms new transactions and adds them to Bitcoin’s public ledger. It is also how new bitcoins are created and enter into circulation and is critical to the maintenance and development of the ledger. Miners are at the center of operating and maintaining the bitcoin blockchain. So how does mining work? Users in the Bitcoin network use specialized hardware that continuously solves a complex puzzle using computational resources. Once the problem is solved, the miner can add a block of pending transactions to the blockchain. This is known as “Proof-of-Work.”

With cryptocurrencies that use Proof-of-Work, every block of transactions has a specific hash. To confirm blocks, miners must generate a target hash less than or equal to that of the block. Miners accomplish this by using devices that are capable of generating computations quickly. The first miner that generates the target hash can update the block and receive crypto rewards. Proof-of-Work works well with cryptocurrencies as finding the target hash is difficult, but verifying it is not. Proof-of-Work offers several advantages, 

  • A high level of security 

  • Decentralized method of verifying transactions

  • Enables miners to earn crypto rewards

Bitcoin Mining: Miner Rewards 

As mentioned earlier, miners are rewarded each time a successful block has been mined. This reward gets halved every 4 years, or 210,000 blocks, to control the number of bitcoins entering the ecosystem. During genesis, the bitcoin block reward was 50 BTC. Since then, Bitcoin has gone through 3 halving events, and the reward currently stands at 6.25 BTC. 

Bitcoin Mining: Hardware

The hardware used for mining has seen significant changes since the inception of Bitcoin, with ASICs gaining significant popularity among the mining community. 

  • CPU Mining: Back in 2009, even low-powered devices could participate in mining bitcoin with just their CPU resources. Even individual miners could use their regular desktop and easily mine BTC. 

  • GPU Mining: With Bitcoin’s popularity growing, miners switched to GPU (Graphic Processing Unit) mining to gain an edge. GPU mining improved nearly six times over the prevalent CPU mining. 

  • Field Programmable Gate Arrays: After GPU mining, miners soon switched to a specialized hardware called the Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), which could mine Bitcoin with even greater efficiency. These were popular until 2013, when a device called the Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASICs) took over. 

  • ASIC: An ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) miner is a computerized device or hardware that uses ASICs to mine digital currency. Each such miner is constructed to mine specific crypto. So a Bitcoin miner will only be able to mine BTC. Currently, the Bitmain AntiMiner S19 Pro, WhatsMiner M30S, S19, and T19 are the most efficient ASIC miners in the market.  

Bitcoin Mining: The Role Of Mining Pools 

Mining pools consist of thousands of interdependent miners working together to improve their chances of successfully mining bitcoin. The combined efforts of many miners ensure that they can discover more blocks than when working individually, generate a fairly stable income, and ensure that every member of the mining pool receives a share of the block rewards. So if you are mining in a Bitcoin pool, you will share the rewards generated in proportion to your fraction of the hash rate controlled by the pool. 

While most miners prefer to set up their own hardware, the emergence of cloud mining is giving miners a simpler alternative. Cloud mining allows miners to rent computing power, removing all barriers to entry for Bitcoin mining. All miners have to do is create an account, choose a relevant plan, complete the payment and start mining. 

There are several mining pools that you could join as a miner. Some of the biggest are Foundry, accounting for 17% of all hashing power, F2Pool, which accounts for 15.6% of all blocks, and AntPool, which mines 15% of all blocks. 

Bitcoin’s Environmental Impact 

Bitcoin has come under considerable scrutiny thanks to it being highly energy-intensive. Bitcoin creates an estimated 40 billion pounds of carbon emissions in the United States alone. According to the University of Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, Bitcoin uses an estimated 150.66 terawatt-hours (TWh). This incredibly high rate of consumption boils down to Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism, with a majority of the energy consumption occurring during the mining process, which leaves a massive carbon footprint. 

However, bitcoin has made significant strides in lowering its environmental impact. The mining industry has been reasonably successful in switching from non-renewable energy sources to renewable energy sources such as hydroelectricity. Other clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy are also gaining prominence. 

The Bitcoin Mining Council (BMC) is a forum of Bitcoin miners that promotes transparency and best practices and educates the public about the benefits of bitcoin and bitcoin mining.  Data from the Bitcoin Mining Council has shown that 60% of Bitcoin mining is now sustainable. This is an increase from the 36% recorded the previous year. There has also been a significant increase in the efficiency of mining operations, with electricity consumption declining by 25% and hash rate increasing by 23% over the past year. With the emergence of newer technologies, bitcoin mining is fast becoming one of the most sustainable industries in the world. 

In Closing 

As you can tell, there are several ways to mine cryptocurrency. However, while bitcoin mining may sound appealing and profitable, it is difficult to make a profit unless you are part of a mining pool or have considerable resources at your disposal. The volatility of Bitcoin also adds some level of uncertainty to the mix and could impact miner rewards. Generally, GPU mining and cloud mining are popular with miners, while CPU mining is extremely tedious. ASICs, while extremely capable, consume a significant amount of resources. 

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