Power theft leads to cryptocurrency mining centre fire in Senadin

Burnt cryptocurrency servers due to the fire incident.

MIRI, Dec 22: Investigations at a house that caught fire here on the morning of Dec 16 revealed illegal electricity connections by-passing the meter.

According to a press statement, quick action from the Miri Fire and Rescue Department prevented the fire from spreading to neighbouring houses and no fatality was reported.

Sarawak Energy Berhad (Sarawak Energy) was informed that the direct tapping cables by-passing the meter were still energised even after incoming supply to the premises was disconnected. As a result, three firefighters were put at the risk of electrocution while they were trying to put out the fire as water from the hose was a perfect conductor upon contact with electricity.

The technical team managed to swiftly disconnect power to the house, ensuring the site was safe for the firefighters to carry out their duties.

The inspection team found tampered wirings hidden in the ceiling and walls to avoid detection. These wirings, kept in an unsafe and messy condition, were used to tap electricity supply from the incoming mains wiring, by-passing the meter and resulting in unregistered electricity consumption.

Cryptocurrency mining servers normally operate 24-hours daily and need to be constantly cooled and ventilated to avoid overheating. On average, this energy intensive activity can consume electricity worth at least RM10,000 a month depending on the number of servers at the premises.

The burnt circuit board at the house.

Earlier on 11 November, a house used for cryptocurrency mining activities in Bintulu was also razed by fire.

Investigations found wirings supplying electricity to the house were tampered with, connecting directly from the mains and by-passing the electricity meter.

In April this year, cryptocurrency mining operations at rented houses led to nine power interruptions in Pujut and its surrounding areas in Miri. All the nine operators tampered with their wirings and had their supply coming directly from the main wiring, by-passing the meter.

This energy intensive activity can also cause electrical system overload, leading to intermittent power interruptions and causing inconvenience to customers in the surrounding areas.

Sarawak Energy reminded its customers not to trust any service providers claiming to be able to reduce electricity bills or allow premises owner to enjoy unlimited usage of electricity through meter tampering. Power theft is a crime and it may also damage electrical appliances, leading to fire, jeopardising safety and endangering lives.

Landlords are also reminded to be careful when renting out their property to prevent themselves from being held accountable for any liabilities as a result of tenants using the premises for illegal activities.

The Electrical Inspectorate Unit (EIU) of the Ministry of Utilities Sarawak, together with Sarawak Energy have investigated 104 cryptocurrency mining related power theft cases since 2018, with Kuching (37), Sibu (6), Miri (59) and Bintulu (2). In 2020, Kuching (8), Miri (9), Sibu (6) and Bintulu (2) cases investigated.

In all these cases, all unsafe wirings and tampered meters have been removed and seized as evidence. Police reports have been lodged and the premises owners will be called to assist in investigations under Section 33(5) of the Electricity Ordinance. Stealing electricity is a criminal offence which carries a penalty of up to RM100,000 and/or five years’ jail.

Members of the public are encouraged to report any incidences of power theft, including the details of power theft service providers via Sarawak Energy’s customer care centre at 1300-88-3111 or email at customercare@sarawakenergy.com. All information will be kept strictly confidential. — DayakDaily