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Bitcoin Mining Difficulty at ATH, New ETF Attempts + More News

Get your daily, bite-sized digest of cryptoasset and blockchain-related news – investigating the stories flying under the radar of today’s crypto news.

Bitcoin mining rigs. Source: Adobe/amixstudio

Bitcoin news

  • Bitcoin (BTC) mining difficulty, the measure that shows how hard it is to compete for mining rewards, has reached a new all-time high of 20.82 T on January 23, having gone up 1.05%. This follows a 10.79% increase to 20.61 T two weeks prior. (Learn more: Bitcoin Mining in 2021: Growth, Consolidation, Renewables, and Regulation)
  • Major American investment management firm VanEck has made another attempt to launch a digital asset-related exchange-traded fund (ETF). According to the filing, this new Digital Assets ETF would track the price and performance of the Global Digital Assets Equity Index run by its subsidiary MV Index Solutions.
  • Valkyrie Digital Assets, the crypto subsidiary of investment firm Valkyrie Investments, filed an application for a bitcoin ETF. Per the document filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Coinbase Custody Trust Company, LLC would serve as the custodian for the Valkyrie Bitcoin Fund.

CBDCs news

  • Local government officials in three of China’s biggest and most affluent cities have stated that the cities will take part in further pilots for the forthcoming digital yuan. According to the Global Times, a state-run, English-language media outlet, Beijing’s Mayor told reporters over the weekend that the capital “will accelerate the building of innovative demonstration zones for fintech and professional services in 2021, and promote the pilot application” of the digital RMB. Authorities in second city Shanghai and economic powerhouse Shenzhen made similar claims. The media outlet quotes a “veteran industry insider” as stating that the latest pilots were “only the first step of a ‘long march.’”

Blockchain news

  • Ethereum (ETH)-focused blockchain company ConsenSys has partnered with China's Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) to make blockchain more accessible for enterprises and government organizations, said the emailed press release. As part of this partnership, ConsenSys Quorum, which is an open-source protocol layer that serves as a foundation for businesses to build Ethereum-based enterprise solutions, will be available in some 80 cities through BSN's public city nodes throughout mainland China.

Exchanges news

  • Coinbase now has over USD 90bn in assets on platform and over 43m registered users, according to the updated numbers published on its website. It reported upwards of USD 455bn in total volume traded.

Adoption news

  • While privately-issued digital currencies are very unlikely to replace government-issued fiat currencies as a medium of exchange, they could partially displace haven assets like gold, said a research note from the Bank of Singapore as reported by The National Business. Once key disadvantages have been addressed - such as trust, volatility, regulatory acceptance, and reputational risks - cryptocurrencies could replace gold as an electronic store of value, and digital currencies can also be used in investor portfolios as a potential safe-haven asset and for asset diversification, it said.
  • Major digital-asset manager Grayscale Investments has pledged USD 1m to Coin Center, a US non-profit think tank and cryptocurrency advocacy group. According to the press release, Grayscale has pledged to match donations to Coin Center of up to an additional USD 1m through February 2021. This donate-and-match commitment was initiated by crypto exchange Kraken in 2018, and the crypto community took up the pledge to match donations up to another million, enabling Coin Center to raise over USD 3 million that year, it said.

Regulation news

  • Russia's Ministry of Labor has stated that officials of federal and local government bodies, including the Bank of Russia board members and chairs of government-owned corporations, as well as their close family members, are prohibited from owning cryptocurrencies. Per the letter issued by the Ministry, referring to the law on digital assets that came into effect this month, all such individuals must dispose of any crypto holdings in their possession.
  • The US Senate Committee on Finance voted unanimously to approve Janet Yellen, the former Chair of the Federal Reserve, as the new Treasury Secretary, reported Reuters. The next step is the Senate vote. Yellen made a splash in the Cryptoverse with her recent quotes about cryptocurrencies, as well as other comments made last week before the Senate's Finance Committee.

Mining news

  • A total of 36 large-scale crypto mining “farms” have been shut down in Abkhazia, per an official Ministry of the Interior release. In addition to the farm shutdowns, in three of the de facto state’s regions, a further 970 mining rigs were disconnected in the Ochamchira region. Miners in the Gagra region, where 17 of the farms were located, were using a combined 10 megawatts of power, police stated, and the closures come as the nation continues to battle illegal crypto mining in a crisis that has caused months worth of power outages and blackouts. Ministers have also suggested that crypto miners in Abkhazia could be hit with heavy fines in an attempt to ease the pressure on the grid.

Crime news

  • A 48-year-old Californian man claims he has fallen prey to scammers who tricked him into handing over the keys to USD 27,000 worth of BTC. Per Fox KTVU, the man, a T-Mobile customer, responded to a text message saying that attempts had been made to change his password, instructing him to call what he thought was a T-Mobile customer services number. The alleged scammers then followed up by calling him and claiming they worked for Ledger, and would help him recover bitcoin from his account, which had been frozen. The man then proceeded to tell this caller his wallet password and “anonymous account identification numbers” – which he duly handed over. When he later checked his BTC wallet, he discovered that his funds had been stolen. The police are investigating.