Bitcoin nation flares tensions

bitcoin nation flares tensions

Just outside of Shiprock, New Mexico, on land belonging to the Navajo Nation, a Bitcoin mine owned and operated by a Canadian investment company consumes seven megawatts of power each month—enough to power 19,600 homes.

The operation is run by a firm called WestBlock Capital and mines between 23 and 25 bitcoins per month, equivalent to roughly $1.4 to $1.6 million USD, with a majority of its power coming from renewable solar energy. According to a press release from the mine’s parent company, Luxxfolio, the mine accesses these resources “at significantly reduced cost in the bottom decile of global power costs.”

But all around the mine, Diné—citizens of the Navajo Nation—live without electricity or running water in their homes.


Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee, on Dish With One Spoon territory.

I write about music, culture, labour, white supremacy, colonialism, and harm reduction. Recently, I’ve been reporting on cryptocurrency and crypto-colonialism.

My work has been published by The Guardian, Pitchfork, Columbia Journalism Review, Vulture, The Walrus, MEL, Mic, CBC, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, Toronto Star, and others.

I did communications and fact-checking for the podcast series Race Against Climate Change by Canada’s National Observer.

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In 2003, however, adjustments to the pipeline enabled reverse flow to allow the oil to run both ways. The former Soviet states Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan willingly made use of the pipeline for their oil to travel from the Black Sea area to Asia.

The coalition is pushing for the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline to play a bigger role which will benefit the energy security of customers and the strategic goals of Israel.
The re-purposing of the pipeline to carry oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe would diminish Turkey’s role.

The pipeline’s owner, Europe Asia Pipeline Co. (EAPC), expects to capture somewhere between 12 and 17 percent of the oil trade transiting through the Suez. It affects Egypt’s ability to generate income as a significant share of the state’s coffers comes from transit fees.


These math problems help keep the books for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin through verifying transactions in their block-chained ledgers.

But the fans that keep these really powerful computers from overheating can be loud, causing many neighbors to worry about the impact of having a Bitcoin mine right next door.

“When we’re talking about that much noise, it is absolutely a public nuisance,” Dodd said. “It can sound like a jet engine.”

Concerns about noise levels caused many residents to mobilize, creating the grassroot “Birds, Not Bitcoin” movement. They put up signs across the city saying that “We want to hear the birds, not Bitcoin.”

But over the past year, more and more rural communities have gotten involved in crypto mining.

In June 2021, the Chinese government banned crypto mining without any explanation.

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That’s power that would otherwise go unused,” said Moalemi, referring to the mining operation’s energy source. “Our biggest challenge is having the funds available and the land rights secured to connect families with electricity.”

NTUA initially had a 51 percent ownership stake in the mine, but recently sold that interest back to WestBlock, who now have complete ownership over the mine and its production. NTUA declined to how much it earned from the sale. Moalemi said the NTUA felt they had capitalized on their investment and that it was “appropriate” to sell their ownership interest “for the benefit of all our customers.”

NTUA continues to provide basic utility services to the mine.
Moalemi said that tax revenue to the Navajo Nation for these utilities over three years is approximately $48,000 USD, not including worker pay.

The Arab Spring was the start of an ideological conflict between Turkey and the wealthy Arab Gulf nations. Turkish assertiveness is strengthened by an expanding economy and a brand of Islamic ideology which is shared with the likes of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Israel, on the other hand, stands to benefit from this conflict by strengthening its relations with European and Arab neighbors. The trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline could be a massive asset that would cement existing ties.

Tensions between Turkey and the Gulf nations grew after Ankara expressed its strong support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after Mubarak was overthrown.
The monarchies in the Gulf view Islamic democracy as an existential threat to their style of rule.

Any profits from that power sale can be funneled back into the community, Johnson said.

I think the selling of the power is hugely beneficial,” Johnson said. “Because of this industry — this new industry that didn’t exist here two years ago — that will allow the city to make more and more investments in our community.”

Forsyth would have also sold electricity to the Wattum Bitcoin mine if it opened up. It’s what made the project appealing to Forsyth city councilman Greg Goolsby.

“Obviously, you sell power, you’re going to benefit from it,” Goolsby said.
“Is it a good business plan? It’s an awesome business plan.

Jayson Johnson, executive director of the Development Authority of Washington County, talked to no fewer than three cryptocurrency companies before settling on Australian company Mawson Infrastructure, which built a $365 million cryptocurrency mine in the town of just over 5,500 people.

“It’s diversifying our tax base,” Johnson said. “That’s a big boost to your tax base that we wouldn’t have had.”

The operation is housed in an industrial park far away from local residents. Because of this, noise isn’t as much of a concern.

“It’s not a noise level that is outside the norm in an industrial park,” Johnson said.
“It certainly would be a noise level that wouldn’t be unacceptable in a residential area.”

The city of Sandersville also makes money through selling electricity, since it’s the power provider for the Mawson’s mine.

That’s the nature of the business we’re in.”

Much of the criticism around Bitcoin mining moving into communities tends to revolve around the notion that any power sucked up by a Bitcoin mine could have gone to residents. MacLean said that criticism of the project on the basis of lack of service access on the Navajo Nation is “unfounded,” however. He said WestBlock is simply filling a gap left by a major customer. “They have 15 megawatts of load that they had nowhere to send it to because a coal plant came offline,” said MacLean.

NTUA senior counsel Arash Moalemi, who is Diné and has been involved with the WestBlock deal since its origin, told Motherboard that the utility generates more than enough power to supply the Navajo Nation, but that logistics make it costly to hook up homes in rural areas.

He added that the land lease revenue for the nation over five years is approximately $60,000 USD.

Some Diné feel these benefits are meagre compared to the potential costs, since the mine is still partially powered by non-renewable sources. Carol Davis, executive director of Navajo environmentalist sovereignty organization Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment [Diné C.A.R.E.], organizes grassroots Diné resistance to unsustainable and damaging energy projects on the Navajo Nation.

Davis said that the project is in step with a history of resource extraction on Navajo lands that has devastated the environment and local water supplies while increasing risk of chronic illness for Navajo people.

“Even in this Bitcoin project, what happens is these projects are energy-intensive,” said Davis, who has to haul water to refill her home’s cistern and septic system.

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