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17 Million Down, 4 Million To Go: Bitcoin's Getting Scarce

17 Million Bitcoins Down, 4 Million To Go

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The number of Bitcoins left to mine has shrunk even further after the 17 millionth Bitcoin was mined on Thursday morning.

According to data supplied by Blockchain.Info, Bitcoin no. 17m was mined this morning at 10:40 CET by the mine-sharing platform, Antpool.

Based on the fact that since block #420,000, each block has contained 12.5 BTC; the momentous occasion took place at block #520,000.

With only 21m Bitcoin having ever been created in the first place, this brings the percentage of Bitcoin still to be mined down to below 20%.

At current mining rates, roughly 1,800 Bitcoin are added into circulation every day.

In the whitepaper, Bitcoin’s mysterious architect, Satoshi Nakamoto, designed the system so that the number of Bitcoin rewarded progressively diminished as the difficulty in mining increased.

For the first 210,000 blocks, miners were rewarded 50 BTC for each new block; this halved to 25 BTC in November of 2012 and again to 12.5 BTC the summer of 2016.

Whilst in 2009, an ordinary computer would have been capable of mining 200 BTC in a matter of days, at current difficulty levels it would take close to 98 years to mine just 1 BTC.

This has meant that many serious miners have moved on to advanced rigs, such as the Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) rigs, which have been found to consume significant amounts of energy and at over $1,000, has made Bitcoin mining an expensive activity.

Created by the Chinese company Bitmain – which manufactures and sells its own Antminer ASIC rigs – Antpool is a platform which enables users to devote part of their computational power to mine Bitcoin at a much faster rate and a share in the profits.

Also operating mining operations on other prominent coins such as Litecoin (LTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH),  Antpool landed itself in hot water earlier this week after it was revealed that it had burned some of the profits from mining BCH so as to dampen the rate of circulation and lead to an increase in the coin’s price.

There is a lot of speculation over what will happen when the last Bitcoin, the 21 millionth, is mined.

Some have suggested that Bitcoin could slowly become obsolete as other cryptocurrencies with much higher hard caps and better scalability integrate with mainstream society; others suggest that it could become a type of virtual gold, with fixed scarcity pushing prices up astronomically.

At current mining rates, predictions suggest that Bitcoin could reach its final coin figure in 2040: that’s 22 years to mine 4m Bitcoins.

Considering the capital and energy costs involved in mining BTC, would it even be economically viable for anyone to mine the last couple of million?

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