Irkutsk boasts Russia’s lowest energy prices at just 1 ruble (1p) kW per hour compared to an average of 21p in the UK. The region hosts four Soviet hydroelectric power stations built to harness the power of mighty Siberian rivers and provide local aluminium smelters with cheap electricity.
Bitcoin miners in Irkutsk are a diverse bunch but most of them had been seeking to make use of their entrepreneurial skills as Russia’s economy began to shrink after the 2014 annexation of Crimea, leaving private businesses struggling for survival.
As the pressure to tax Bitcoin miners or ban cryptocurrency mining is mounting, Irkutsk residents insist they are only saving the Kremlin the trouble of dealing with popular discontent over declining living standards.
“People in Irkutsk have found a way to make money: “Putin should say ‘thank you’ for that,” Ilya Klots, who owns a Bitcoin mining hosting company, told The Telegraph.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, initially lamented “high risks” and volatility associated with Bitcoin, but last month he signalled tolerance of cryptocurrencies, saying that it could be used for savings in the future.