Power-sucking Bitcoin ‘mines’ spark backlash

A technician inspects the backside of bitcoin mining at Bitfarms Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2018

Power-sucking Bitcoin ‘mines’ spark backlash

  • Local US authorities pushing back against bitcoin miners as power prices rise
  • Firms insist they bring revenue, investment and talent to mining locations

NEW YORK: Bitcoin “miners” who use rows of computers whirring at the same time to produce virtual currencies began taking root along New York’s northern border a couple of years ago to tap into some of the nation’s cheapest hydroelectric power, offering an air of Silicon Valley sophistication to this often-snowy region.
But as the once-high-flying bitcoin market has waned, so too has the enthusiasm for bitcoin miners. Mining operations with stacks of servers suck up so much electricity that they are in some cases causing power rates to spike for ordinary customers. And some officials question whether it’s all worth it for the relatively few jobs created.
“We don’t want someone coming in, taking our resources, not creating the jobs they professed to create and then disappear,” said Tim Currier, mayor of Massena, a village just south of the Canadian border, where bitcoin operator Coinmint recently announced plans to use the old aluminum plant site for a mining operation that would require 400 megawatts — roughly enough to power 300,000 homes at once.
In Plattsburgh, where two cryptocurrency operations have been blamed for spiking electricity rates, the prospect of more cryptocurrency miners plugging in spooked officials enough in March to enact an 18-month moratorium on new operations. The small border village of Rouses Point also is holding off on approving new server farms and Lake Placid is considering a moratorium.
For local officials, the power struggle has been a crash course in the esoteric bitcoin mining business in which miners earn bitcoins by making complex calculations that verify transactions on the digital currency’s public ledger.
Since it often uses hundreds of computers that throw off tremendous heat and burn a lot of power, it has tended to gravitate toward cooler places with cheap electricity, such as geothermal-rich Iceland or along the Columbia River region of Washington state.
The stretch of New York near the Canadian border similarly fits the bill. Cheap hydropower from a dam spanning the St. Lawrence River is doled out by a state authority to local businesses that promise to create jobs. Additionally, some municipalities such as Massena and Plattsburgh receive cheap electricity from a separate hydropower project near Niagara Falls.


In Plattsburgh, electricity is so cheap most residents use it instead of oil or wood to heat their homes. The couple of commercial cryptocurrency mines here can get an industrial rate of about 3 cents per kilowatt hour — less than half the national average.
But Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read said its largest operator, Coinmint, which has two plants employing 20 or fewer people, can consume about 10 percent of Plattsburgh’s 104 megawatt cheap electricity quota. When the city exceeded its allocation like it did this winter, customers ended up paying $10 to $30 more a month for the extra electricity. For a major employer like Mold-Rite Plastics plant, it cost them at least $15,000 in February.
State regulators have since given municipal utilities the ability to charge higher rates to cryptocurrency miners. At least one bitcoin miner in Plattsburgh says he’s working with the city on solutions to the power worries.
Ryan Brienza, founder and CEO of the hosting company Zafra, said those could include mining on behalf of the city for an hour a day or harnessing the heat from mining computers to warm up large spaces.
While the direct number of jobs associated with mines can be small, Brienza said they can bring revenue, investments and talent to the city while employing local contractors.
“It can start snowballing,” Brienza said.
Coinmint’s plans for a new plant in Massena, for example, come with a promise of 150 jobs. That’s welcome in an area that in the past decade has suffered though the loss of aluminum-making jobs and the closure of a General Motors powertrain plant.
“J-O-Bs. Yup. What we need up here,” said Steve O’Shaughnessy, Massena town supervisor.
Coinmint had asked for a cheap power allocation from the New York Power Authority for Massena for part of its energy needs, but that request was deferred.
The power authority has separately enacted its own moratorium on allocating hydropower to cryptocurrency operations — mirroring municipalities that have effectively pushed the “pause” button on a rush of miners coming in.
Coinmint representatives said this month they hope to begin the Massena operation in the second part of this year. The company stressed that mines can be a good fit for this job-hungry area.
“They’re also going to get substantially more efficient over time,” said Coinmint spokesman Kyle Carlton. “So to the extent that Plattsburgh or Massena or anybody else can get in on that and establish themselves on the ground floor, I think that’s going to help those cities to be successful.”


Bitcoin mining is the process used to verify transactions and add them to the currency's public ledger (blockchain). It involves compiling pending transactions and turning them into a computationally difficult, mathematical puzzle. The first computer to solve the puzzle claims a transaction fee and a newly-released bitcoin.

Australia overtakes Qatar as top global LNG exporter

Updated 10 December 2018

Australia overtakes Qatar as top global LNG exporter

  • Australia shipped 6.79 million tons of LNG in November while Qatar exported 6.2 million tons
  • Australia has invested heavily in a number of LNG export projects over the last few years

LONDON: Australia has become the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world, overtaking Qatar for the first time, according to data published on Monday.

Australia shipped 6.79 million tons of LNG in November while Qatar exported 6.2 million tons, according to Refinitiv Eikon, the financial data arm of Thomson Reuters.

While LNG exports from Australia increased by more than 15 percent from the previous month, Qatar’s exports dropped by 3 percent.

Australia has invested heavily in a number of LNG export projects over the last few years. Just last month, the first LNG shipment left the country’s new offshore Ichthys project on the northwestern coast of Australia.

Analysts expect Australia will look to maintain its lead ahead of the Qataris.

“Competition between Qatar and Australia for the share of global LNG market is set to intensify further,” said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy’s global gas analytics in London.

“Australia has boosted its market share in recent years by bringing online a slew of LNG export projects. This is in stark contrast with the situation in Qatar where the export capacity has remained around 77 million tons per annum,” he said.

Ehsan Khoman, head of regional research and strategy at MUFG, in Dubai, said Australia has an advantage over Qatar due to it being geographically closer to major gas importers.

“The lower transportation freight costs will remain the backbone of Australia comparative advantage as an exporter vis-à-vis Qatar, given the country’s closer proximity to the largest LNG importers in Asia, namely, Japan, China and South Korea,” he said.

Rising LNG exports from US will add to the global market competition, he said.

“Going forward, the LG space is likely to undergo a major transformation driven by new supplies coming from the US, with our expectation of a three-way tug of war between the US, Australia and Qatar to intensify in the medium term for global leadership among LNG exporters, notably for a larger share of the key market in Asia.”

The data follows Qatar’s announcement last week that it would leave the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in early 2019 to focus on gas production.

Kumar said he expects Qatar to ramp up efforts to maintain its market position as competition grows from other exporters.

“Qatar has plans to vigorously defend its market share in the coming years as it is moving ahead with expanding the capacity of its Ras Laffan plant to around 110 million tons per annum by the end of 2025 or early 2026,” he said.