A bitcoin mining facility in Thailand was destroyed in a massive fire earlier this week and foul play may have been involved. The 5-megawatt farm was operated by mining cooperative Cowboyminers and primarily relied on Spondoolies-Tech and Innosilicon hardware.
Cowboyminers was formed by a group of European expats living in Bangkok. The outfit tried to maintain a low profile, but at the same time the cooperative operated a relatively extensive mining operation. The facility was recently upgraded to include hundreds of new Spondoolies-Tech SP30 miners.
Hash rate up in smoke
The incident was reported in local media, but the bitcoin community started realising something was wrong before the news was reported, as the disaster caused an abrupt drop in the hash rate and a lot of online chatter.
The fire reportedly started overnight and there were just two people at the facility when it broke out. Local media reports the fire raged out of control for more than 30 minutes. No injuries were reported in the incident, but damage was extensive.
We contacted Spondoolies-Tech following the incident and the company confirmed much of the hardware used in the facility came from them. The farm operated a mix of Innosilicon, Spondoolies-Tech, BitFury and Gridseed hardware.
Spondoolies-Tech CEO Guy Corem told us that he visited the site in late June, when it was populated by about 1,000 Dragon miners and about a hundred Spondoolies-Tech miners. Small quantities of bitcoin and scrypt miners made by other companies were used as well.
Corem said the facility was expanded shortly after his visit, with hundreds of Spondoolies SP30 miners. One batch was shipped in August; another arrived in September. The SP30 miners operated for more than two months and data indicates they were cooled properly. Corem said they did not experience any issues prior to the incident.
Hardware was properly installed
While there is a lot of speculation about the cause of the fire and the amount of damage, there is no official word on the extent of damage suffered by the facility. It is estimated that the farm housed upwards of 2,000 miners when it was destroyed, including about $2m worth of Spondoolies-Tech miners.
Corem described the cooperative as a good and serious client:
“I want to add that they’re legit customers who paid for the equipment with BTC. I know some of the people involved other businesses. All Kosher.”
He stressed that Spondoolies is helping the cooperative recover and salvage some of the hardware, as some of it was not completely destroyed.
“I can’t estimate the total damage, but it’s considerable. All the build-up was done from bitcoins the cooperative held,” said Corem.
Corem dismissed allegations that the miners were not properly installed. He confirmed that the SP30 units were designed to be stacked and cooling was not an issue. However, Spondoolies-Tech did not survey the site after the SP30s were installed and it could not vouch for the quality of the facility’s own AC wiring. The operators of the facility told Spondoolies-Tech that they did not rush the installation of new miners and that they used cables provided with the SP30 miners.
Cause remains unclear
The cause of the fire remains unclear. Local media reports suggest it could have been a simple short-circuit, but nothing is official yet.
Foul play is another possibility, and arson has not been ruled out. One facility operator indicated that it might have been an “external source” and no no short-circuit occurred, saying:
“There was absolutely no failure anywhere, no wiring failure. It wasn’t damaged it was fine. The only cables you see are the power cables of the miners themselves, everything was fine. The electrical system was working, there was no short and there is no short even now.”
The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the miners continued running even as the buildings engulfed in flames and they went out one by one. He said the only way fire could spread is through the adhesive holding the acoustic foam in place.
“It is the only reason the fire could spread. We left a huge empty space, 30–40 metres with no miners at all and then another 10–15 metres to the next building,” he said.
Three buildings were engulfed and two collapsed following the fire. The operator said ventilation inlets could have fueled the fire and helped it spread. The facility was not insured, but the collective said it has enough resources to get back on its feet.
“We had zero insurance. Everything is our own money,” our source said. “We are early adopters and we are not new to mining.”
He added that the company paid for all its hardware in bitcoin generated from its mining operation.
Images courtesy of Spondoolies-Tech, Cowboyminers collective