Here are all your questions answered. Just as gold miners produce the world’s supply of gold, so do bitcoin miners produce all the digital currency available to the market – but, naturally, it is a bit more complicated than that. Mining is the process of adding transaction records to bitcoin’s public ledger, or the blockchain. Read more: Bitcoin explained: What is it? First of all, the blockchain is, simply, a chain of blocks. Miners use a special software to solve mathematical problems that both confirm legitimate transactions, or blocks, and create new bitcoins, adding new transactions to the blockchain about every 10 minutes. The difficulty of mining bitcoin is part of its design.
The ideal average mining time is 10 minutes per block, and if that falls, the process becomes more difficult with the aim of keeping the block creation rate stable. There are a total of 21m bitcoins that can be mined, at which point the miners will close shop unless bitcoin’s protocol – the rules that secure the system – is changed to allow for a larger supply. Mining can be profitable, as miners are rewarded with a fixed amount of coins and transaction fees for their hard work, but the computers and hardware necessary for powering through blocks can eat up a lot of electricity and end up running huge costs. Just how much energy is used and what is the cost?