On April 13, 2018, Bitmain, the Chinese cryptocurrency mining giant, and the Port of Walla Walla in Washington State discussed terms for a ten-acre land lease, said local news reports. The land shall be used to develop a “small scale operation” for Bitmain’s subsidiary – Ant Creek LLC.
Public Concerned about Electricity Usage
As per the report by Union Bulletin, Walla Walla commissioners agreed to the deal’s terms after an hour and a half of strenuous public negotiations. As it stands, a total of ten acres of land are now available for lease, with a purchase option, in the area between the Dodd Road Industrial Park and Wallula Gap Business Park.
However, the panel withheld Ant Creek’s additional bid of 30 additional acres, reasoning that the small-scale operation would serve as a test-bed for both the firm’s operations and public trust.
As observed, the public’s biggest concern during Walla Walla’s mining discussion was that of electricity usage. The town, with a population of only 32,000, alleged that Ant Creek’s operation would consume the equivalent of 24,000 residences, which is 75 percent of the town’s electricity usage.
Despite Ant Creek’s proposition that 25 jobs shall be created, the public voiced that the high electricity usage outweighs the miniscule job boost.
“It extracts electricity and creates wealth for the owner with no trickle down,” said an unnamed resident.
However, the CEO of Columbia Rural Electric Association Les Tell told commissioners that the membership-owned electric co-op has “more than adequate resources to meet the demand for the project. The co-op and its members are not at risk.”
Residents Angered over Lack of Info
Previously, a non-disclosure agreement was signed between Ant Creek, Port of Walla Walla, and Columbia Rural Electric Association, with the residents unaware of the actual nature of the public discussion.
Reportedly, the public was under the impression that the session was about blockchain technology and its advantages in the supply chain and logistics industry, which is clearly in the interests of Walla Walla Port. Only after the commissioners faced an on-going interrogation about the project’s nature, did the panel hint at bitcoin mining.
According to Norm Osterman, a resident;
“The focus on blockchain technology rather than cryptocurrency mining seemed like a way to soften the idea with more neutral language. But I suspect that 100 percent of the greatest part will be used for bitcoin. I think it’s misdirection, frankly.”
Another resident, Peder Fretheim, informed commissioners that he studied cryptocurrencies in detail and didn’t consider the concept a useful addition. Fretheim spoke of bitcoin’s slow transaction times, and its expensive transactions fee, before adding that “it produces a ton of carbon dioxide pollution for every transfer.”
“It’s used for two things: transactions you want to hide from the law and speculation,” added the resident.
Project Adheres to Walla Walla’s Economic Mission
According to the Commission’s President Peter Swant, Ant Creek’s project meets the Port’s mission of job and tax creation. Apart from buying a $2 million access highway, Ant Creek would also pay $4,701 in tax each month, a substantial amount for a county the size of Walla Walla.
In case Ant Creek chooses to exercise the purchase option, the county shall earn $15,000 per acre, at a total of $150,000 plus tax.
However, the lease is subject to approval from Ant Creek, whose CEO reportedly left the meeting “without a hint of whether the terms might be acceptable.”