In brief

  • Nearly 10,000 Antminers have reportedly vanished from a Bitmain-operated mining facility in Mongolia.
  • The Antminers are owned by customers and operated under contract by Bitmain.
  • Posting on Bitmain’s Weibo account, Micree Zhan accused his estranged co-founder Jihan Wu of attempting to “illegally transfer” the Antminers.

Following a brief intermission, the clash between Micree Zhan and Jihan Wu, the estranged co-founders of Bitcoin mining hardware firm Bitmain, has resumed.

According to a post on Bitmain-owned Antminer’s WeChat, 10,000 Antminers at a mining farm in Inner Mongolia were “illegally moved” in mid-July by former Bitmain staff, causing “severe financial damage to Bitmain and its customers”.

What has happened to the Antminers?

While some Antminer buyers choose to operate their miners themselves, many opt to co-locate their miners at a Bitmain-owned mining farm in exchange for a monthly fee and a cut of revenue from the miner. Many of the vanished Antminers are in this category. 

The Bitmain subsidiary that currently owns the farm is Fujian Zhanhua Intelligent Technology Company, which, according to public records, is controlled by Zhan. As Decrypt previously reported, Zhan set this company up to operate Bitmain’s bank account; he was no longer in control of the firm’s official account, as Jihan Wu had the company chop in his possession.

In a Weibo post from Bitmain’s main account, Zhan accused Wu of attempting to “illegally transfer” the Antminers, which he maintains are Bitmain’s property, into a company controlled by Wu. 

 

A Weibo post from Bitmain's official account. The document in the post is a legal demand that the missing Antminers be returned, stamped by Bitmain and its four subsidiaries (Source: Weibo)

Who controls what at Bitmain?

The battle between Zhan and Wu is over the position of Legal Representative of Bitmain. With this position comes control of the corporate chop, and thus unlimited signing authority on behalf of the company. 

Although Zhan controls the firm’s Beijing office and its Shenzhen factory, Wu remains Bitmain’s Legal Representative, and controls the Hong Kong parent of Bitmain China; in June, Wu reportedly cut off the supply of chips from Taiwanese company TSMC to Bitmain's factory.

As mighty as an Antminer

Bitmain’s Antminers are a major contributor to the world’s hashing power. The Antminer S9, the company's flagship, produced approximately 23% of the world’s hashing power according to a report by CoinMetrics

Source: CoinMetrics

As Antminer plays such a crucial role in the world’s hashing power, the uncertainty over its management continues to concern miners and the Chinese crypto community—moreso, according to one report, than the floods in Bitcoin mining hotspot Sichuan.

This story was produced in collaboration with our friends at Forkast, a content platform focused on emerging technology at the intersection of business, economy, and politics, from Asia to the world.