Chinese principal fired over stealing electricity to mine Ethereum

A school principal in central China was recently sacked for tapping into the school’s power supply and Internet to mine digital currency, local media Xiaoxiang Morning Herald reported on Thursday.

Lei Hua, head of a middle school in Chenzhou City, central China’s Hunan Province, had been mining the cryptocurrency Ethereum, racking up an electricity bill of 14,714 yuan (about 2,115 US dollars), all on the school’s dime. 

Since mining cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin and Ethereum require significant time, computing resources, and energy to crack challenging math problems via blockchain technology, Lei discovered that he couldn’t afford the huge amount of electricity to run his computer around the clock.

Having spent over 10,000 yuan for his equipment, Lei then moved his “mining machine” to the school’s electronic lab and bought seven more machines. These machines, running all day long, began to strain the school’s electricity system and almost caused a fire.

They also slowed down the Internet at the school, limiting what the teachers could access. A continuous whirring noise eventually lead the school’s staff members to uncover the mining rigs. 

Indeed, the noticeable, abnormal electricity usage had previously been reported to Lei himself, but he said it was caused by the school’s air conditioners and heating devices.

Wang Zhipeng, deputy principal of the school, was also disciplined for joining Lei’s digital currency mining, reportedly using 2,444 yuan (about 351 US dollars) of electricity.

This isn’t the first time that an allegation of electricity theft for private cryptocurrency ventures has surfaced in China.

In 2016, local police cracked down on a Bitcoin mining farm in Bengbu, east China’s Anhui Province, for illegally allocating a local electric power company’s energy source for mining operations.

This June, in Anhui’s Ma’anshan City, a man surnamed Ma was detained for mining Bitcoin and Ethereum on 200 computers, stealing 150 megawatts (MW) of public electricity for more than one month.

According to Xinhua, the Chinese government has toughened regulations over Bitcoin and other digital cryptocurrency to rein in financial risks, with exchanges closed and trading halted.


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