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A Day in the Life of a Worker at One of the World’s Biggest Bitcoin Mines

August 18, 2017

If you live in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, employment options are limited. You could work in a coal mine, but the industry is in decline. You could take a job at a chemical plant, but it won’t do much for your health.

Or you could work in one of the world’s largest Bitcoin mines.

Quartz paid a visit to the facility, found in the SanShangLiang industrial park on the edge of Ordos. The location, 400 miles from Beijing, may seem odd, but the failing mining region offers 30 percent discounts on energy bills to companies setting up in the area. That’s useful, given the Bitcoin mine consumes 40 megawatts of electricity.

That power is consumed by computers constantly performing calculations required to update the public log of transactions that underpins Bitcoin. The first system to complete each record wins some currency, so the more machines you run, the more chance you have of making some Bitcoin. In Ordos, 21,000 computers race for the prize—accounting for 4 percent of the processing power underlying the entire Bitcoin network. (To see what the facility looks like, check out Quartz's accompanying photo essay).

Because the hardware runs around the clock, there’s lots of maintenance work to be done. Quartz spoke to Hou Jie, who got a job at the plant off the back of his manufacturing degree. He works from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., fixing 10 computers per day, sometimes by rebooting them, other times taking them to a repair shop. He say the work is “a bit dull.” But then, one employee reports earning $600 per month—over double the local minimum wage.

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