Cryptocurrency Mining Centre Catches Fire

Electricity Theft and Unsafe Wiring Cause of Incident

18 AUGUST 2022

A cryptocurrency mining centre operating among shop lots at 9th Mile, Kuching caught fire recently from electricity theft related wire tampering.

Firefighters first received a distress call and immediately alerted Sarawak Energy for an emergency shutdown so that the fire could be extinguished safely.

The team later found thirty (30) charred cryptocurrency mining servers at the premises. It is believed that the actual number of servers could be higher due to the severity of the fire.

Onsite inspections also revealed that the wiring system had been tampered with and direct tapping cables were connected to the premises.

The fire was believed to be caused by an unsafe wiring system which overloaded the electrical system. The mining servers were confined within a small space, leading to the accumulation of heat which ignited flammable egg cartons and gypsum boards nearby.

As a result of the illegal and dangerous power theft, Sarawak Energy is estimated to have incurred losses of approximately RM14,300 per month.

In a separate case, a cryptocurrency mining centre at Jalan Serai, Sibu, was also found to be involved in electricity theft during an operation carried out by Sarawak Energy and Sibu Police.

An electrical system overload at the Taman Ging Bo substation serving the area led to suspicions of unrecorded high consumption. Thirty-four (34) cryptocurrency mining servers and direct tapping cables used to steal electricity were seized. The owner of the premises was present at the time of the operation.

Police reports have been lodged for both cases and all parties involved will be called for investigations.

Cryptocurrency mining consumes a large amount of electricity as the servers run non-stop and require cooling units to prevent overheating. Non-standard installations commonly used in electricity theft for such energy-intensive activities can easily overload the electrical system capacity, increasing the risk of short circuits, appliance damage, fires and even cause loss of lives.

Electricity theft is a criminal offence under Section 33(5) of the Electricity Ordinance, which carries a penalty of up to RM100,000 and/or five years of jail if found guilty.

Sarawak Energy reminds customers that tampering with wires to under-record electricity consumption is both illegal and dangerous. In cases where electricity is stolen for cryptocurrency mining, it can also lead to outages in the surrounding areas, causing unnecessary inconvenience to neighbours.

Together with the Sarawak Ministry of Utility and Telecommunication and the Police, the utility will continue to track down anyone stealing electricity for any reason whatsoever. Sarawak Energy is also collaborating with agencies such as the firefighters in raising awareness on safe electricity usage to prevent unwanted fires.

Members of the public are reminded not to trust service providers claiming to be able to reduce electricity use or allow premises owners to enjoy unlimited usage of electricity through meter tampering. Meter inspection teams are trained to detect various electricity theft methods, including tampered meters, fake electricity meter covers, underground direct tapping and smart meter indications as part of Sarawak Energy's efforts to curb power theft.

Landlords are strongly advised to conduct background checks on potential tenants, as well as to be mindful and alert of their activities to avoid being implicated in electricity theft committed at the rented premises.

Members of the public are also strongly encouraged to report any suspicious activities related to electricity theft and service providers claiming to be able to reduce electricity use by contacting Sarawak Energy’s Customer Care Centre at 1300-88-3111 or email at Rest assured that all information received will be kept strictly confidential.

The cryptocurrency mining centre at 9th Mile, Kuching, where the fire took place

Direct tapping cables hidden inside cable trunk (red arrow) at 9th Mile, Kuching, following a fire

Onsite condition after the fire was put out at 9th Mile, Kuching

Burnt cryptocurrency mining servers found at 9th Mile, Kuching