CoinShares, a Jersey-based asset management firm with offices in London and New York
that provides advice and other services for investors, released a statement on the state of Bitcoin mining during the global uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, ahead of a planned, more thorough June 2020 mining report. In it, CoinShares’ research director Christopher Bendiksen wrote that the current talk of a possible mining “death spiral” due to coronavirus-based lockdowns makes for dramatic reading, but is not at all based in reality.
“‘Mining death spirals’ do not actually happen in real life,” Bendiksen wrote in the statement. “They are highly theoretical edge cases without any historical real-world precedent … Mining is here to stay.” Confidence in the mining space and in bitcoin generally, despite economic uncertainty around the world, is high at the firm. “Bitcoin is arguably the only financial asset that can operate remotely — nobody needs to go to work to make bitcoin work,” Danny Masters, executive chairman of CoinShares, wrote in a supplementary statement sent to Bitcoin Magazine. “Nobody needs to fill an ATM machine. While things look bleak for everything, I can’t think of a better asset to buy than bitcoin.”
Difficulty, Block Frequency and Hashrate
The cost of Bitcoin mining is largely a function of the difficulty — a dynamic metric determined by the protocol itself that can adjust both up and down to keep block times at 10 minutes on average. The difficulty has reset downwards many times — sometimes dramatically as the result of a pullback in price, as in November and December of 2018 — but the network has never ground to a complete halt or even come anywhere close to doing so. “There is no price level that could cause Bitcoin’s emission rate to increase,” reads Benedickson’s statement. “When the dust settles on the current financial crisis, the Bitcoin monetary system will have created exactly as many bitcoins as originally intended.” In essence, the Bitcoin mining difficulty adjustment keeps Bitcoin block frequency steady, no matter the amount of total network hashrate.
What About the Halving?
“If prices do not recover, the hashrate will fall — and when the halving hits, it will fall again,” wrote Bendiksen. “This is not a problem for Bitcoin, nor is it unprecedented.” And it’s not always the biggest bitcoin mining groups that will survive a major bitcoin price recession, contrary to what you may be hearing. It will be the groups that have the cheapest energy costs and the newest, most efficient hardware. “The halving is still a couple months away and many miners are already closing up shop,” Bendiksen said in a follow-up interview with Bitcoin Magazine. “So, at the time of the halving, we will likely be in a completely different difficulty environment than now. Recent estimates show that as much as 25 percent of the peak-level hashrate may already have been turned off.”
While CoinShares suggests that post-halving mining will be different than the current and near-future mining environment, Bendiksen does believe today’s status offers an insightful window. “For all of those who are worried about the halving, this is a perfect prelude because the end effect on miners is the exact same,” he wrote in his statement. “Hence, the hashrate dynamics we’re likely to see in the upcoming weeks will be an excellent parallel to those we might also see after the halving in May.” Bendiksen acknowledged that some of the higher-cost miners may drop out after the halving, but he also sees mining companies stabilizing and building for the foreseeable future.