What Happens When All 21 Million Bitcoin Are Mined?

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Bitcoin Mined - Crypto Diaries

Bitcoin, the first and largest crypto asset, was officially launched in 2009. According to sources, the network was a blockchain system that held a crypto coin. Satoshi Nakamoto, the anon creator, wanted to streamline the global financial system, especially following the financial crisis noted in the year 2008. 

Over a decade later, the relevance of Bitcoin is becoming more apparent every day as more investors, institutions, and even governments. Now more than ever, investors are appreciating Bitcoin and the crypto landscape. 

At the very nucleus of Bitcoins development, the creator Satoshi Nakamoto set the maximum number of coins at 21 million. When all Bitcoins are released, the maximum number of circulating coins will never surpass 21 million. 

The coins are constantly released by the day through a process popularly referred to as mining. Essentially, mining involves using high-power machines to solve super-complex algorithms. 

The concept of mining leverages a proof-of-work consensus mechanism. The miners must guess millions of hashes before getting the right cryptographic solution to a cryptographic equation. So, how many BTC Have been Mined so Far?

Number of BTC Already Mined

The mining process aims to release new coins within the blockchain. Mining began in 2009, with the creator being among the first owners of BTC. 

However, thousands of investors are already involved in the hideous BTC mining process. While the process has always been hideous, the rewards have been remarkable.

In Bitcoin mining, the participants create a new block every ten minutes, earning some BTC. When writing this report in 2022, every 10 minutes, the bitcoin network would release 6.25 BTC into circulation. So, how many BTC have been mined so far? 

When writing this report, over 19,183,087.5 million BTC had already been released. This means that the number of BTC remaining to be mined is 1816912.5. The question remaining is, when will the last Bitcoin be mined?

When will the last BTC be Mined?

As mentioned, close to 2 million BTC are yet to be mined. The mining process is likely to continue for the next few years. But when will the last BTC be mined? 

Initially, BTC, the network used to reward blockchain miners with 50 coins every 10 minutes. However, as mentioned earlier, the mining rewards currently are 6.25 BTC. Why? Because of a process called halving.

The bitcoin network halves the Bitcoin mining rewards undergo halving every four years. Halving refers to cutting the tips in half—the entire reason for the quadrennial halving is to foster the network’s long-term sustainability. 

Four years in the Bitcoin network is the time needed to release 210 thousand Bitcoin blocks. Therefore, after every 210 thousand blocks, the rewards are halved. 

The first halving event was in 2012 when Bitcoin cut the rewards for blocks from 50 to 25 BTC. After the second 210 thousand blocks were completed in 2016, Bitcoin completed the second halving event, reducing the tips to 12.5BTC. Later in 2020, the third halving event was done, reducing the BTC to 6.25 BTC.

The 2020 halving event means that every 1.6 minutes, 1 Bitcoin is released into circulation, rewarding miners. In 2024, Bitcoin will conduct another halving, reducing the rewards from 6.25 BTC to 3.125 BTC. This would mean that every 3.2 minutes, the Bitcoin network releases a new coin. The process will continue quadrennially. 

Following the quadrennial halving, the mining process is expected to go on for over 100 years. In fact, according to reports, many experts suggest that the last fraction of BTC could be mined sometime in 2140. So, what next after mining is completed? 

What’s Next After The Last BTC is Mined?

 We have already established that over 100 years from now, the last Bitcoin will be mined, ending the mining process entirely. So, what happens with the blockchain following the end of mining?

Will there be a Need for Miners? 

The simple answer is NO; there will not be any need for miners in blockchain post-mining. The entire reason behind mining is to release new Bitcoins into circulation. After releasing all the 21 million BTC, the BTC network will not need any miners for any reason. However, there is an argument that the Bitcoin network will still need miners to complete the verification validation of transactions. 

Will the Network Issue More BTC? 

The Bitcoin network has capped the total BTC supply post-mining at 21 million. This means after 2041, the highest number of BTC that can ever be in supply at a go is 21 million. 

However, many network participants have lost their BTC keys over the few years of BTC existence. In most cases within the crypto landscape, losing the key renders your crypto useless. As such, while over 19 million Bitcoins are already released, a large chunk is locked in ‘irrecoverable wallets.’

What will happen to those irrecoverable wallets? Remember, the total supply of BTC should be 21 million. So, will the network create extra coins to replace the lost ones? NO!

Investors must understand that Satoshi Nakamoto left the Bitcoin code as open source. As such, the code can be changed with the consensus of Bitcoin holders. Therefore, it will be up to the community to decide whether to increase the BTC limit and offer new incentives. If the community agrees, then BTC might expand its supply. However, that is not very likely. Why?

Bitcoin’s entire system is based on scarcity. The fewer coins circulating means more demand hence more value increases. If they ever choose to create more tokens, BTC scarcity will be in question, and consumers will lose confidence in the project. If the community loses trust in the project, BTC might lose value. Therefore, once everything is done, Bitcoin will NOT create any further supply. 

How Will Transaction Verification Occur? 

One of the critical roles of miners in the Bitcoin landscape is to validate and authenticate transactions. It’s the miners who verify the transactions and confirm whether it’s authentic or not. 

Once the miners verify the transactions and their authenticity, they add them to the chain in the form of blocks. The result is they get rewarded with the newly released coins after mining. However, the mining process will come to an end. So, how will transaction authentication happen in Bitcoin? 

There is a wide range of options available in the crypto landscape. However, today, the most popular system used by blockchains is validators. Instead of miners, Bitcoin could refer to its network participants as validators. The role of validators after the end of mining will be simply checking transactions, ensuring they are authentic, and posting them on the chain.

How Will Miners/Validators Be Rewarded?

However, miners in Bitcoin currently get rewards from the newly mined coins. So, where will the validators get their rewards? In most PoS blockchains, validators get their rewards from transaction fees. 

While miners will not earn directly from newly created BTC, they will earn tokens from transaction fees in the network. Notice this: a Bitcoin investor only earns a small fraction of BTC after every block. While the fraction could be as low as 0.1BTC, it is valued at about $2k.

If verification happens through validators in the future, the network must find a way to reward them appropriately. Remember, there are high expectations around BTC. In the next few decades, Bitcoin will have applications in many industries. The banking world itself could depend vastly on Bitcoin in the future. 

Notice this: miners may stop mining if they are not adequately rewarded. This would lead to a reduction in the number, hence causing a centralization issue. Remember, Centralization is what Bitcoin was designed to curb. As such, the Bitcoin network will have to set up a proper rewarding system for validators to ensure the efficiency remains high. Moreover, if mining ceases to be profitable, there could be a rise in mining cartels and selfish mining. 

Indeed, if bitcoin decides to reward its validators/miners with fees, the network transaction fees will rise. Bitcoin will have to set up a proper fee structure, slashing some fixed costs from investors’ transactions. As such, Bitcoin fees could hike. 

The rise in fees could have a detrimental impact on the Bitcoin ecosystem. People could start running from the network and choosing alternative platforms if transaction charges increase.

Will This Mean Bitcoin be Good for the Climate?

For over the decade of BTC’s existence, there have been claims that the network contributes vastly to environmental degradation and climate change. Essentially the carbon footprint of mining has been proven to be very high, with the electricity consumption being enough to power some countries. However, from 2140, the process of mining BTC stopped. So, will that reduce BTC’s energy consumption? NO!

Remember, the process of mining involves the verification of transactions. In the post-mining blockchain, transaction verification will still include proof of work. The miners/validators still have to do many complex computations to verify transactions. Therefore, the high electricity consumption will remain a problem. 

However, since many mining rigs already use green energy sources, mining will not have severe carbon impacts in the future. 

Final Word

The guide explores the idea of Bitcoin mining and is specially focused on what happens following the mining of the last BTC. Essentially, due to bitcoin halving, the process of mining BTC has been lengthened from just a few years and will end in 2140. After the last BTC is mined, the community could decide to add more supply or stay with the 21 million maximum. If they choose the latter, mining will cease, and validators will control the systems, verifying transactions to earn rewards from transaction fees.

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