What on earth is a Bitcoin mine?

bitcoin 5
A closer look at the towers. Most of the facility is devoted to mining for an investor group in China.

Bitcoins can be purchased on an exchange, or transferred via mobile apps or computers.

A third option: People compete to "mine" bitcoins using computers to solve a complex math puzzle -- the Bitcoin algorithm.

Industrial bitcoin mines devote their massive amounts of computing power to working on the algorithm, and are rewarded with an equivalent share of bitcoins. Currently, a winner is rewarded with 25 bitcoins roughly every 10 minutes.

Miners are lured to Hong Kong because of its proximity to chipmakers in China and the city's permissive regulatory environment.

First published December 17, 2013: 4:46 AM ET

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