The Bitcoin revolution has well and truly gathered steam in Malta, with thousands of people now believed to be producing the cryptocurrency in the comfort of their own homes.
Lovin Malta sat down with Dario Azzopardi, the CEO of IT company 3 Group, which last year became the first company to start selling Bitcoin mining machines in Malta.
“At the start, only a few people were interested in it but we’re now importing between ten to thirty machines every week….they’re selling like cheesecakes,” he said.
Dario Azzopardi, chief executive of IT company 3 Group
When Bitcoin was first released in 2009, it used to be pretty easy to produce (or ‘mine’) the cryptocurrency – the processor of a regular home computer could be used to solve complex mathematical puzzles needed to produce it. However, as more and more people started mining and the difficulty of the puzzles started to automatically get more difficult, miners had to start working in groups and rely on increasingly complicated software to solve the puzzles and extract Bitcoin.
And that’s where Dario Azzopardi comes in. Specifically designed Bitcoin mining machines now exist, which Azzopardi imports from China and sells to miners in Malta.
Azzopardi said thousands of people are mining Bitcoin with these machines in Malta
He is selling them for €2,500 a pop, a relatively competitive price, and installing them directly at people’s homes. Despite the price, demand for such machines is on the rise in Malta. This is because the value of Bitcoin has steeped so much in recent years (from €400 per Bitcoin in early 2016 to around €4,000 now) that people believe it to be a worthwhile investment.
“The machine I’m selling is the most powerful Bitcoin mining machine in the world, and can produce an average of 0.005 Bitcoin a day, which is around €17 a day,” he said.
Moreover, 3 Group has recently started offering miners Bitcoin debit cards in which newly-extracted Bitcoin will automatically be deposited at the end of the day. The cards, which are made by Bitcoin wallet company Xapo, function like normal credit cards and can be used to buy products or to withdraw money from ATMs.
Bitcoin debit cards allow miners to spend the money they created themselves
“People were happy creating Bitcoins but were starting to wonder how they could spend them,” Azzopardi said. “We started importing these debit cards last year – requiring applicants to simply show us their ID cards and a recent utility bill – and hundreds of people now have one.”
“Essentially, these people are creating and spending their own money.”
The Bitcoin debit card costs €200, out of which €150 is instantly deposited inside it.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat revealed a few months ago he intends to see Malta become a pioneer in embracing Bitcoin, and some Maltese companies have now started accepted payments in the cryptocurrency or giving their staff a portion of its salary in Bitcoin.