What happens when all the Bitcoin in the world has been mined?

Bitcoin, the digital currency that revolutionized the financial industry when it was launched in 2009, has an expiration date. Unlike fiat currencies, which are easily printable at demand, Bitcoin has a finite supply. This supply is capped at 21 million coins and all of these coins are already destined to be “mined” one after the other. Now you may be wondering, what happens when all the Bitcoin in the world has been mined? What becomes of Bitcoin? Let’s discuss the speculations of Bitcoin mining and what happens next once the last coin is mined. 

What is Bitcoin mining?

Bitcoin mining is the process by which new Bitcoins are released into circulation and transactions get verified on the blockchain. Bitcoin miners execute the “mining” process using powerful hardware and software tools to develop a cryptographic number that fits the criteria. Usually, this process is very competitive because only the first miner to solve the problem will receive the Bitcoin reward. After a miner receives the reward, the process starts all over. 

How much is Bitcoin’s mining reward?

Due to Bitcoin halving, the rewards that Bitcoin miners receive for mining Bitcoin are reduced by half approximately every four years. When Bitcoin first got mined in 2009, the reward received after mining one block was 50 BTC. In 2012, this reward was halved to 25 BTC. Again, in 2016, this reward was halved to 12.5 BTC. In 2020, the reward miners received was halved again to 6.25 BTC. So at the time of writing this article, Bitcoin mining reward is 6.25 BTC. However, this reward will be halved again to 3.125 BTC at some point in 2024. 

How many Bitcoins are there?

Bitcoin’s supply is capped at 21,000,000 BTC. The supply limit of this digital currency is one of the major causes of its fluctuating price. One reason why Bitcoin is valuable is because of its finite supply. 

Can Bitcoin’s hardcap of 21 million be changed?

Bitcoin’s hard cap of 21 million can never be changed. This is because this limit has already been encoded in Bitcoin’s source code and implemented by nodes on the network. Bitcoin’s supply limit is a paramount factor in its value proposition, as an investment and money., 

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Why do miners participate in Bitcoin mining?

Understanding Bitcoin mining and how it works

The reasons why miners participate in Bitcoin mining are both financial and ideological. Here are some motivations for Bitcoin miners: 

1. Financial incentive

The major reason why miners participate in Bitcoin mining is the potential for the process to generate profit. Usually, miners earn block rewards (6.25 BTC) every ten minutes at random as well as transaction fees from any of the blocks they successfully mine. Since Bitcoin is very valuable, the miners can sell their rewards and make a lot of money from it. 

2. Long-term investment strategy

Some miners see the process of mining and accumulating Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency as a long-term investment strategy. Usually, they hope that the coins they unearth now will become more valuable in the future. 

3. Supporting decentralization

Cryptocurrencies serve as a decentralized alternative to conventional centralized financial systems. Miners contribute to decentralization by participating in the mining process, ensuring that the Bitcoin network stays resistant to external control and censorship. 

How many Bitcoins have been mined?

Bitcoin halving

At the moment of writing this article, Bitcoin’s circulating supply is at 19,582,493.75. This means that there are just 1,417,506.3 tokens left to be mined before it reaches its limit. Now, let’s answer the question, “What happens when all the Bitcoin in the world has been mined?”

What happens when all the Bitcoin in the world has been mined?

When all the Bitcoin in the world has been mined, Bitcoin miners will no longer earn block rewards since no coins exist. Hence, mining revenue will entirely be gotten from transaction fees. Also, the purchasing power and price of Bitcoin will automatically adjust to the absence of new supply, which means that scarcity will make Bitcoin more attractive. 

Let’s journey through the reality that will set in after the last Bitcoin gets mined: 

1. Mining meltdown

Once the last BTC token is mined, the curtain draws on all Bitcoin mining games. There will be no more need to use computational powerhouses to compete to solve complex puzzles and receive newly minted bitcoins as a reward because there will be no more tokens left. But don’t fret. Transaction fees will be used as compensation for the absence of mining rewards. 

2. Fees in focus

Without block rewards after mining, transaction fees will automatically take center stage. As Bitcoin adoption grows worldwide, so will the total number of transactions executed by users across the network. This will potentially provide a sustained income stream for investors.

3. Scarcity reigns supreme

With no new supply of Bitcoin flooding the crypto market, scarcity sets in and the existing Bitcoins become more valuable. This scarcity is likely to push the price to incredible heights, fetching early investors a lot of money. 

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When will Bitcoin run out?

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Guessing the exact period that Bitcoin will reach its maximum limit is very tricky. However, some experts believe that the last BTC token can be unearthed by October 8, 2140. Other experts believe that if Bitcoin is still widely accepted as a currency and remains an alternative to fiat money, there is a possibility that it will become highly stabilized.

So what happens when all the Bitcoin in the world has been mined? After the last Bitcoin gets mined, there will be no more Bitcoins for miners to receive as rewards. Hence, mining revenue will entirely be gotten from transaction fees. Also, since there will be no more BTC left to be mined, scarcity will set in, and this will make the value of Bitcoin skyrocket. As such, the people who will primarily benefit from this situation are the hodlers of Bitcoin. Most importantly, some experts believe that during this period, Bitcoin may have become highly stabilized, especially if it is still widely accepted as an alternative to fiat money. So there is a possibility that Bitcoin will be just as mainstream as government-supported fiat currencies.

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Emmanuel Agwu

Jan 3, 2024

5 mins read

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