May 6, 2018 by Jake

Last month, Bitcoin’s blockchain reached a very important milestone: the 17 millionth BTC was mined. Obviously, this number is very important, as it confirms that there are just four million tokens left to mine, before the final cap of 21 million BTC is reached. Still, there’s no need to panic about this, because it will take a lot of time.

The more the miners, the smaller the rewards

According to CoinTelegraph, Bitcoin’s blockchain protocol makes mining more difficult, as more miners join the party, not to mention that the rewards for mining a block is reduced by 50% every time 210,000 blocks are mined.

Currently, miners get 12.5 BTC for unlocking a new block, but starting with May 2020, they will get only 6.25 coins. As for the last Bitcoin that will be mined, this is expected to happen somewhere in 2140, presuming that no other changes to the protocol will be made.

Until now, it’s taken just 9 years to mine more than 80 percent of the total coins that will ever be available, split in a bit over 520,000 blocks.

What’s next after the last token is mined?

Miners are still motivated by the incentives they’re receiving now, but when the 21 million cap will finally be hit, there will basically be no more BTC rewards for them. Still, transactions will be validated and stored on blocks in the blockchain. In this condition, miners will only benefit from transaction fees. But will this be enough for them?

On the other side, let’s not forget that Bitcoin transactions are now processed by the network in order of the transaction fee associated to that specific transaction. The higher the fee, the bigger the interest for a miner to prioritize the transaction.

Basically, this will be the method of rewarding Bitcoin miners in the next century, one there will be no more tokens to be unlocked. And it’s a statement coming directly from Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper.

“Once a predetermined number of coins have entered circulation, the incentive can transition entirely to transaction fees and be completely inflation free.”