The Litecoin hash rate has today reached a new all-time high of over 400 TH/s. With just under two months to go until the blockchain’s next ‘halvening’, the question now is how high will the hash rate go and do the mining economics even give a return on investment?
On the back of Litecoin moving up to a 2019 high of $125 and becoming the fourth-largest cryptocurrency by market cap (now over $7.7 billion), the project is just 56 days away from a mining reward reduction that is commonly referred to as a halvening.
— Nawaz Sulemanji (@coinrivetnawaz) June 10, 2019
The halvening event, which happens every four years, will cut the hourly supply of tokens that are awarded to miners who compete to mine new blocks and process transactions in half. At present, around 74% of all Litceoin have been issued into circulation – with the remaining 22 million (of its 84 million cap) being distributed out at a current rate of 600 per hour (soon to be 300 an hour).
Miners operating at a loss?
Taking Litecoin founder Charlie Lee’s estimates into account (from his September 2018 San Francisco conference talk), miners may actually be operating at a loss to find new coins on the Litecoin network, based on a $0.1 kwH electricity cost.
At today’s price of $125 a coin, that works out at around $75,000 per 600 LTC. It costs around $65,000 in electricity every hour to find those 600 LTC, but this does not include CAPEX or other running costs to maintain a profitable mining operation. This revenue will also be halved as the block reward falls to 300 LTC from the start of August this year.
Other statistics of note coming from Lee’s estimates are that the current Scrypt hash rate translates into around $220 million in “online hardware value” for the Litecoin mining network.
Since mining difficulty hit a high of 11.3 in May 2018, the difficulty dropped down to a low of 5.24 (December 2018) before rising up around 250% to its current all-time high levels. The growth in difficulty has however lagged behind the price appreciation, which has racked up a 400% gain in the same seven-month period.
This is a powerfully easy catalyst to trade, given a little patience.
— The Crypto Dog📈 (@TheCryptoDog) June 9, 2019
With hash rate and mining difficulty at all-time highs for the network, you could assume that after the block reward drops, the mining hash rate may head lower. Unfortunately, the options to mine other Scrypt coins are fairly limited, with only much smaller and more volatile projects like Dogecoin, Digibyte, Verge, and Viacoin for any Scrypt miners to chose from.
The last time Litecoin had its block reward halved, its hash rate was 266 times smaller (at around 1.5 TH/s). Back in August 2015, the price of each coin was also $3 instead of the $125 today.
The project and industry have come a long way over the last four years, but given the current momentum for Litecoin’s price (back above three digits) and its privacy and interoperability-focused roadmap, don’t rule out the economics of miners just looking to accumulate as many coins as possible rather than selling tokens straight away to pay off the electricity bills.