UPDATE (10th November 12:04 GMT): A source from Cowboyminers has now clarified the date and time of the fire: 14th October at 04:30am local time.
UPDATE (10th November 10:40 GMT): A previous version of this article stated that the bitcoin hash rate dropped following the outage. This has been removed awaiting further confirmation from sources concerning the exact date of the blaze. More to follow.
A bitcoin mining facility in Thailand was destroyed in a massive fire last month and foul play has not been ruled out, according to a local source.
The 5-megawatt farm was operated by mining cooperative Cowboyminers and primarily relied on Spondoolies-Tech and Innosilicon hardware, with some additional miners from BitFury and Gridseed.
Cowboyminers was formed by a group of European expats living in Bangkok, who tried to maintain a low profile, but at the same time operated a relatively extensive mining operation.
According to Cowboyminers, the blaze started at 4:30am on 14th October, when just two people were at the facility.
Local media reports that the fire raged out of control for more than 30 minutes and, while no injuries were reported in the incident, damage was extensive.
Spondoolies-Tech confirmed that much of the hardware used in the facility was sourced from them.
The manufacturer's CEO, Guy Corem, told CoinDesk that he had visited the site in late June, when it was primarily populated by about 1,000 Dragon miners and around 100 Spondoolies-Tech miners.
Corem said the facility was expanded shortly after his visit, with hundreds of Spondoolies-Tech SP30 miners. These had operated for more than two months without incident and technical data indicates they were cooled properly, he added.
There has been no official word on the extent of damage suffered by the facility. It is estimated that the farm housed upwards of 2,000 miners when it was destroyed, including about $2m-worth from Spondoolies-Tech alone.
Corem described the cooperative as a good and serious client:
“I want to add that they're legit customers who paid for the equipment with BTC. I know some of the people involved other businesses. All kosher.”
He stressed that his company is helping the cooperative recover and salvage some of the hardware that was not completely destroyed in the blaze.
“I can't estimate the total damage, but it's considerable. All the build-up was done from bitcoins the cooperative held,” said Corem.
He dismissed allegations that the miners were not properly installed, confirming that the SP30 units were designed to be stacked and that cooling was not an issue.
However, Spondoolies-Tech did not survey the site after the SP30s were installed and it could not vouch for the quality of the facility’s own AC wiring. The operators of the facility allegedly told the miner manufacturer that they did not rush the installation of new miners and that they had used the cables provided with the SP30 machines.
Arson not ruled out
The cause of the fire remains unclear, with local media reports suggesting it could have been a simple short-circuit.
Arson is another possibility that has not been ruled out, however. One facility operator indicated that it might have been an “external source” and that no short-circuit had occurred, saying:
"There was absolutely no failure anywhere, no wiring failure. It wasn’t damaged, it was fine. The only cables you see are the power cables of the miners themselves ... The electrical system was working, there was no short and there is no short even now."
The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the miners continued running even as the buildings were engulfed in flames – failing one by one. He also indicated that the adhesive holding the acoustic foam in place may have helped propagate the blaze:
"It is the only reason the fire could spread. We left a huge empty space, 30–40 metres with no miners at all and then another 10–15 metres to the next building."
The operator also suggested that ventilation inlets could have fueled the fire and helped it spread. In all, three buildings were engulfed, two of which subsequently collapsed.
The facility and the machines, which had been paid for in bitcoin generated from the mining operation, was not insured. However, the representative said it has enough resources to get back on its feet.
"We had zero insurance. Everything is our own money," he said. "We are early adopters and we are not new to mining."
Images courtesy of Spondoolies-Tech, Cowboyminers collective