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Ethereum Mining Is Going Away, and Miners Are Not Happy

The shift from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake will cut power consumption sharply—and leave some expensive technology searching for new uses.

Mikel-Angelo Chalfoun, an Ethereum miner in a warehouse room that houses his graphic cards in Dubai.

Mikel-Angelo Chalfoun, an Ethereum miner in a warehouse room that houses his graphic cards in Dubai.

Photographer: Natalie Naccache for Bloomberg Businessweek
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The Ethereum mining community is a diverse bunch, geographically and demographically. There’s a 28-year-old translator in Ukraine, running computing hardware on his balcony to earn cryptocurrency so he can buy clothing and other necessities. In Argentina, a retiree uses her gaming PC to double her monthly pension. A college student in Canada has mined enough to buy a BMW motorcycle and a modified 2006 Dodge Charger SRT—and pay for gas every month.

As many people even outside of the blockchain world know, a crash in the crypto markets has made the past few months quite painful for anyone whose financial well-being is tied to the currencies. As of June 15, the price of Ether was down about 70% for the year. At the same time, a lesser-known factor—a tectonic shift known as “the Merge”—is set to end Ethereum mining altogether, cutting off earnings for as many as 1 million people. “This will be a huge financial hit and almost a complete loss of a good source of income,” says the Ukrainian translator, who asked to stay anonymous for fear of being robbed.