China's crypto mining giant, Bitmain, is one step closer to establishing mining facilities in Washington state.
The Port of Walla Walla - Walla Walla county's economic development agency - unanimously approved a land lease and purchase option that would allow Bitmain to build its new crypto mining facility. The company's Ant Creek subsidiary will be able to lease 10 acres with an option to purchase after one year. However, an initial option for an additional 30 acre purchase was removed from the agreement.
Ant Creek still has to agree to the terms to complete the deal, local newspaper the Union Bulletin reported. If it does, it will pay approximately $4,700 per month in rent.
According to the Union Bulletin, Jeff Stearns, the company's director, described Ant Creek during the hearing as both a blockchain company and an artificial intelligence company headed by two different CEOs. Likewise, without specifying Bitmain, he reportedly characterized the company as the largest global manufacturer of crypto mining equipment.
Walla Walla residents voiced concerns over the amount of energy the company would extract from the community, which has some of the cheapest electricity rates in North America.
"It extracts electricity and creates wealth for the owner with no trickle down," said local resident Robb Lincoln, according to the Union Bulletin.
The hearing was reportedly tense, and one resident was escorted out of the hearing during the public comment period.
Another community member criticized cryptocurrency more generally.
"It's not used in legitimate business," Peder Fretheim told the Port commissioners. "It's used for two things: transactions you want to hide from the law and speculation."
Crypto mining companies have been quick to flock to regions with energy surpluses and inexpensive rates, but they are increasingly being met with resistance from locals.
Likewise, the government of the Canadian province of Quebec recently instructed utility firm Hydro-Quebec to halt its consideration of service applications from mining companies due to overwhelming demand.
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