The 19 millionth Bitcoin was mined on Friday—a significant milestone considering there will never be more than 21 million.
And it means that 13 years into its existence, over 90% of all Bitcoin is now in circulation.
But if you're looking forward to the historic moment when the last Bitcoin is mined, hoping it's just around the corner, we hate to break it to you: Neither you, nor the current Decrypt team will see it, because in all probability miners won’t accomplish that until 2140.
This is because of a process called halving. To understand halving, you need to understand the Bitcoin mining process.
Bitcoin is a public ledger that’s distributed simultaneously across many nodes in a global network. This ledger is cryptographic, which means that powerful mining computers running 24/7 use lots of energy to solve codes and validate transactions before a new “block” of data is added to the ledger.
Back in 2009, Bitcoin’s mysterious (and likely pseudonymous) creator Satoshi Nakomoto mined the first “genesis” block. Nakomoto’s reward was 50 Bitcoin, which to this day remains unclaimed despite being worth more than $2.3 million today.
In 2022, the reward for mining one Bitcoin block is 6.25 BTC—just shy of $300,000. In most cases, the reward is shared between every participant contributing computing power toward a mining pool.
The massive decrease in mining rewards since 2009 is due to Bitcoin halving. After every 210,000 blocks are mined, the rate at which Bitcoin comes on the market slows by half because the complexity of the mining increases. This happens roughly every four years.
Bitcoin’s next halving is projected for March 2, 2024, at which point the reward for mining a block falls to 3.125 BTC.
After Bitcoin’s final block has been mined, miners will henceforth be rewarded with users’ transaction fees to validate transactions.
By that point, though, the Bitcoin network could look very different. The only real certainty is how long it could take.