Litecoin (LTC) is a cryptocurrency that has been around since 2011 as an offshoot of Bitcoin. As with other cryptocurrencies, the activity of mining involves ‘solving a hash’. This is in effect competing to be the first to verify and record a new block of transactions. When you succeed, you earn newly minted coin. The first question that springs to mind for anyone interested in mining Litecoin is ‘how long does it take?’.
The amount of coin rewarded is usually referred to as the ‘block reward’, which is currently set at 12.5 LTC. The rate of block completion for an individual currency is information that is generally available. So we know that for Litecoin a block is completed on average every 2 minutes and 20 seconds. From this a simple calculation tells us that 1 Litecoin is mined every 11.2 seconds.
Is it Profitable?
Let’s look at the likelihood of success. Can an individual miner or even a small mining pool (where individuals combine their processing power into a joint mining venture) be successful in solving a hash? We can see that the odds are against them. This is mainly due to lack of processing power set against high costs.
Competition from Corporations
It is stated that one of the main reasons that Litecoin was created was because of concerns that the mining of Bitcoin was becoming increasingly centralized. This means that its production was coming under the control of huge mining pools run by tech firms.
Litecoin uses a different hashing algorithm from Bitcoin, known as Scrypt. This has significantly larger memory requirements than the algorithm used by Bitcoin. Because of this it should be more difficult to develop ASICs for Litecoin. ASICs are programmable devices to mine cryptos. The 2011 Tenebrix project modified Scrypt to enable it to be used on CPUs and utilize the resources of the wider mining community made up of individual miners and small pools.
The Failure of ASIC Resistance
In practice however, the ASIC resistance didn’t last that long. The corporations simply adapted and by 2016 had developed effective ASICs, returning Litecoin to a corporatized setup controlled by big firms. With the biggest mining pools having a hashing rate measured in hundreds of terahashes (trillions) per second, this makes for very tough competition for the sole miner.
Factors That Affect Profitability
- Hashrate — as already discussed the more computational power per second you have, the more likely you are to solve a hash and be rewarded with coin.
- Difficulty Rating — This controls how often a block is solved and new coin is minted. The process can be made easier if miners are not solving blocks quickly enough, or more difficult if they are solving them too quickly. The difficulty rating on any given day can be checked online.
- Power consumption — measured in watts, the main cost of mining is electricity, so check the specification of your ‘miner’.
- Electricity Costs — in $/kWh (dollars per kilowatt hour), this is a variable cost.
- Mining Pool/Maintenance Fees — remember to account for any fees miners pay to a mining pool or cloud hosting service. Fees are usually a percentage of any rewards.
- Overall Supply — there will not be an infinite amount of Litecoin and the supply is limited to 84 million LTC. The amount left to mine, currently between 13 and 14 million, is obviously constantly decreasing. So that has to be factored in when looking at future investment in LTC.
- Halving — In order to slow the rate of the mining process, the powers behind Litecoin occasionally halve the block reward. The block reward started at 50 LTC, was halved in 2015, halved again in 2019 to give the current block reward of 12.5 LTC. It is also due to be halved again to 6.25 LTC in 2023.