Bitcoin mining is the process by which transactions are verified and added to the public ledger, known as the block chain. This allows Bitcoin users to avoid third-party intermediaries such as banks or payment processors that charge higher rates for a faster service in exchange for security. An increase in computing power needed over time has led us towards an energy-intensive digital currency with arguably questionable environmental sustainability practices.
Spanish explorers searching for gold named a river on Vancouver Island Rio de Oro, or Gold River, in the late 1700s.
The river-named village made its name primarily through forestry and the pulp and paper industry, however, a new project could rekindle the “gold rush” mentality.
During their March 21 meeting, the Village of Gold River allowed Bitcoin mining on industrial-zoned land in the village. An old pulp mill owned by West Coast Marine Terminals was to be renovated into a Bitcoin mining facility as part of a proposed project.
“This doesn’t mean the project is a go, but it’s just another stage in it,” said village mayor Brad Unger. “What it does for that piece of property is just allow them to do this kind of work.”
A Bitcoin is created by mining. Bitcoin mining is essentially a collection of computers that solve mathematical problems in exchange for rewards. The rewards are bitcoins.
To win the reward, a computer must solve a given problem first in the world. Consequently, solving a problem requires increasing amounts of computing power. Bitcoin mining has become increasingly energy-intensive.
According to Statista.com, one Bitcoin transaction used an estimated 2,258.49 kWh as of March 14, 2022. However, one Bitcoin currently costs $55,299.81 CAD as of March 24.
BC Hydro will need to conduct a system impact study. Despite its high energy intensity, Unger believes that if approved, the operation will not significantly affect the Gold River power grid.
At one time, the mill site had its own power grid, Unger said. Approximately 100 to 125 megawatts were used at the time. Our village grid won’t be affected by this five-megawatt project.”
The company behind this project is called Ocean Falls Blockchain. An ocean falls press release reports that the company operates a cryptocurrency mining farm at an old mill site in Ocean Falls, B.C. The site is operated using clean energy and operates at a capacity of two megawatts.
Oded Orgil, CEO of Ocean Falls Blockchain, said the Gold River project’s viability tests looked promising and they were very excited about this partnership, as it would represent a significant milestone in Ocean Falls’ pursuit of clean energy solutions to support a decentralized network like Bitcoin.
It will use hydroelectric power from BC Hydro, which is less environmentally damaging than electricity generated from fossil fuels.
Village council member Unger said that the council is open to supporting a wide range of initiatives at the mill site, including a current aquafarms project, and potential greenhouses; which could potentially utilize excess heat generated by the Bitcoin mining operation.
“We all know what happened when there was just a pulp mill, as soon as it shut down, it was all over. West Coast Marine Terminals is committed to making the site multi-purpose,” Unger said. Council supports the redevelopment of that site, and should West Coast Marine Terminals come forward with a proposal we will support it. It has been 22 years since then and we are still trying to do our economic development.”
“We believe this potential partnership is a pivotal opportunity for West Coast Terminals to bridge our strategic interests and access to infrastructure in Gold River with the growing Canadian blockchain technology sector,” said Kent O’Neill, General Manager at West Coast Marine Terminals.
The construction of the bitcoin mine is expected to begin later this year. Once the mine is operating, five to eight jobs will be created.
“The project will create 5-8 jobs, but that’s 5-8 families that don’t have jobs,” Unger explained. “More jobs on the site, more industrial companies will bring in more tax dollars for the village.”
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