When Will the Last Bitcoin Be Mined? Everything to Know
By Beluga Research September 27, 2023
- The last bitcoin is estimated to be mined around 2140, with a total supply capped at twenty-one million coins
- Bitcoin "mining" is the process of verifying and adding transactions to the blockchain, and miners are rewarded with newly minted bitcoins
- The block reward for mining new bitcoin is cut in half approximately every four years, and the most recent "halving" occurred in May 2020
- Timing of the last bitcoin mined may vary due to factors like changes in mining technology and network difficulty adjustments
The last bitcoin is estimated to be mined around 2140, with a total supply capped at twenty-one million coins. This projection is based on bitcoin's design, which includes a "halving" event that occurs approximately every four years. During each halving, the rewards that miners receive for confirming transactions and adding them to the blockchain are cut in half.
As these rewards diminish over time, the total supply of bitcoin approaches the maximum limit of twenty-one million coins. By 2140, it is expected that nearly all bitcoins will have been mined, making it exceptionally scarce and potentially driving up the value further as demand continues.
A Brief History
Bitcoin was created by an anonymous individual or group called "Satoshi Nakamoto." The cryptocurrency was introduced in a white paper titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System in October 2008 and launched as open-source software in January 2009. Initially, mining bitcoin was easy, and anyone with a regular computer could participate. However, as bitcoin's popularity grew, so did mining competition.
In 2012, the first halving event occurred, reducing the block reward from 50 BTC to 25 BTC. Halving events happen approximately every four years and are programmed into the Bitcoin protocol. This mechanism gradually decreases the rate at which new bitcoins are created, ultimately reaching the maximum supply of twenty-one million coins.
When Will the Last Bitcoin Be Mined? Everything to Know
Currently, the mining reward for new bitcoin is set at 6.25 BTC. This reward halves approximately every four years, and the most recent halving occurred in May 2020. The next halving is expected around 2024, which will further reduce the block reward to 3.125 BTC.
As the block reward continues to halve, bitcoin creation subsequently slows down. This intentional reduction in supply makes bitcoin a deflationary asset. Scarcity is a factor that contributes to bitcoin's value, as limited supply can drive up prices.
Based on the current halving schedule, the last bitcoin is estimated to be mined around 2140. However, the actual timing may vary due to factors like changes in mining technology, network difficulty adjustments and potential updates to the Bitcoin protocol.
Mining becomes progressively more challenging due to the difficulty adjustment mechanism in the Bitcoin protocol. Difficulty is automatically adjusted every 2,016 blocks, or approximately every two weeks, based on the network's total computational power. Further, if more miners join the network, difficulty increases to maintain a consistent mining rate.
Learning the fundamentals of bitcoin mining can help with understanding when the last bitcoin will be mined. Mining serves two purposes: Validating transactions and introducing new bitcoins into circulation. Miners use powerful computers to solve complex puzzles that verify transactions and add them to the blockchain, and the miners are rewarded with newly minted bitcoins for these mining efforts.
Bitcoin mining follows a predetermined schedule outlined in the protocol's source code. The total supply of bitcoin is limited to twenty-one million coins, so when bitcoin was created, a specific issuance rate was established. Initially, the reward for mining a new block was 50 BTC, but has since been reduced approximately every four years through an event called the "halving."
There are numerous unique aspects of bitcoin mining that contribute to the estimate of when the last bitcoin will be mined. As the block reward decreases due to halving events, the issuance of new bitcoins slows down. This reduction affects miner profitability and network dynamics.
In the early days of bitcoin, mining was accessible to individual miners with standard hardware, but as halvings occurred, the block reward decreased, requiring specialized mining hardware known as "application-specific integrated circuit" (ASICs). Using ASICs offer significantly higher computational power than traditional central processing units (CPUs) or graphics processing units (GPUs).
The increasing difficulty of bitcoin mining is another crucial factor. The network adjusts the difficulty level every two weeks to maintain an average block production time of around ten minutes. If more miners join, the difficulty increases; if miners leave, the difficulty decreases.
- Limited Supply . Bitcoin mining is capped at twenty-one million coins, which prevents inflation or devaluation by any central authority. The scarcity of bitcoin contributes to the value and price appreciation.
- Decentralization . Because it operates on a decentralized network, Bitcoin eliminates the need for control by any single entity. This reduces the risk of censorship, government interference or manipulation. Additionally, individuals have more control over funds.
- Security . Cryptography enables bitcoin transactions to be highly secure, and the associated algorithms ensure transaction data integrity and immutability. The decentralized blockchain network adds an extra layer of security.
- Global Accessibility . Anyone with an internet connection can access Bitcoin, regardless of location. This provides financial opportunities in countries with limited access to traditional banking services. Bitcoin transactions are also quick and relatively low cost compared to traditional methods.
- Potential for Financial Inclusion . Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin can provide financial services to the unbanked and underbanked populations. By eliminating intermediaries, individuals can have direct control over finances and participate in the global economy.
- Volatility . Cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, are known for price volatility. This means that bitcoin's value can fluctuate significantly within short periods, making it a risky investment. Volatility is driven by market demand, regulatory developments and investor sentiment.
- Lack of Regulation . The cryptocurrency market lacks comprehensive regulation in many jurisdictions, which creates uncertainty and exposes investors to risks such as fraud, market manipulation and security breaches. Regulatory frameworks are evolving, and caution and research are necessary.
- Scalability Challenges . As bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies gain popularity, scalability becomes a challenge. Bitcoin's blockchain has limited transaction processing capacity, leading to potential delays and higher fees during peak periods. Efforts are underway to address scalability through technological advancements.
- Environmental Impact . Bitcoin mining requires significant computational power and energy consumption, which raises concerns about environmental impact, especially when non-renewable sources generate the mining electricity. Efforts are being made to promote renewable energy use in mining operations.
- Regulatory and Adoption Risks . Regulations surrounding cryptocurrencies are evolving, and changes can affect adoption and acceptance. Regulatory actions like bans or restrictions impact liquidity and usability in certain jurisdictions, and acceptance and adoption by businesses and individuals varies, affecting overall utility and value.