By Tom Wilson
LONDON (Reuters) - Kazakhstan may no longer be the bitcoin sanctuary it once was, according to some big miners who are looking to leave the global crypto hub following internet shutdowns last week that compounded fears about tightening regulation.
The government web shutdowns during an explosion of unrest in the country, the world's second-largest centre for mining, caused bitcoin's global computing power to drop around 13% as data centres used to produce the cryptocurrency were knocked offline.
Alan Dorjiyev of the National Association of Blockchain and Data Center Industry in Kazakhstan, which represents 80% of legal mining companies in the country, said most crypto producers were now back online.
Yet the resumption of operations may belie problems to come for the fast-growing cryptocurrency industry, according to four major miners interviewed by Reuters, with some saying they or their clients may look for other countries to operate in.
The internet outage compounded growing concerns about the stability and prospects of the business as tighter government oversight looms, the miners said.
Vincent Liu, a miner who moved operations to Kazakhstan from China to take advantage of the country's cheap power, said the changing environment had led him to look at shifting operations to North America or Russia.
"Two or three years earlier, we called Kazakhstan a paradise of the mining industry because of the stable political environment and stable electricity," said Liu.
"We are evaluating the situation ... I suppose we will keep a part of hashrate in Kazakhstan and will move some to other countries," he said.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are "mined" by powerful computers that compete against others hooked up to a global network to solve complex mathematical puzzles. The process guzzles electricity and is often powered by fossil fuels.
Kazakhstan became the world's No.2 centre for bitcoin mining after the United States last year, attracting an influx of miners and data centre bookings from former global leader China after a crackdown on the industry by Beijing.