BitCoin Mining Is Here – What Does It Mean For Our Town?

A few weeks ago a concerned resident rang my doorbell. She wanted to ask if I knew anything about a Bit Coin Mining operation that has been setup on the property of one Grand Forks business not that far away from both her and our residence. It was news to me . . .

Once she was aware of it she found that the droning sound of the cooling fans (there would be a lot of them) was inescapable. She did some research online about these operations and what she found was troubling. So she decided to go further and get local media (me in this case) aware.

I talked with her and suggested that she should bring this to city council’s attention by either appearing as a delegation or sending in a letter as an information item.

During the next meeting (the only one in July) I saw this wasn’t on either agenda so I decided I’d bring it up in the Committee Of The Whole myself.

Here is the concern:

In case you didn’t already know ‘bit coin mining’ entails using fast computers to solve tricky mathematical problems. Those who have faster and more computers can do it quicker and the quickest are the only ones that actual make ‘money’.

Fast computers take more electricity and generate more waste heat which necessitates cooling which takes more electricity. Multiply this by dozens or hundreds or thousands and you’ve got an idea of what a bit coin mine requires.

These operations are being setup in rural and industrial locations where they have some privacy, low taxes and access to commercial / industrial electrical systems. A medium operation will use more electricity that the town it is located within or near. More than one increases the draw on the power system. The utilities that supply the power find themselves in a pinch: they have to either upgrade OR buy the needed power on the spot market OR both. That drives the rates for all their customers up.

Some might remember that a few years back we saw the rise of gasoline derived from plant sources – specifically corn. This created a situation where corn producers had to choose between selling their produce to gas tanks or stomachs. Guess which pays more and guess what happens to the price of that commodity?

So now it’s electricity and the choice is between people and machines. But will there even be a choice?

A short while ago I watched as some on council fumed over the impact of a Tim Horton’s Drive Thru on the traffic in the block or so around it’s proposed location downtown. It was pointed out that (1) the time to ban drive-thru’s was before the first one ever happened and that is long past (2) the city has no real say in the location because it is on private property and the Ministry of Highways says its okay because there’s no road access issues for them.

It isn’t the first thing I’ve seen where council finds themselves being reactive because previous councils weren’t proactive in their forward vision and planning. And it’s not the only big thing coming from the world at large that impacts our little town.

So I suggested to council (the video below starts at this point) that they should get proactive, study the available information and start making plans about zoning and impacts and how to mitigate those before they happen.

Because it would only take a few people flush with a lot of cash from the sale of their property in the lower mainland to move here and set themselves up with a nice little earner (bit coin mine) for their retirement to upset our town. And with the recent flood and possibility of a large scale buyout in the area right next to the electrical switching yard in North Ruckle the stage is set for them.


3 thoughts on “BitCoin Mining Is Here – What Does It Mean For Our Town?

  1. Deirdre

    “Don’t put the cart before the horse”. You did a great job educating council on the issues associated with BitCoin Mining. My sympathy to those living in the area!

  2. Rodney W. Zielinski

    Les, I just listened to you questioning Council on bitcoin mining. A couple things came to mind. First, a company buying out Ruckles for a mining operation. Most of Ruckles is serviced by Fortis so the drain on the City system would not be there. Second, and what I didn’t hear, was what our contract details was with Fortis. Over a set amount of power consumed by the City we get dinged $$ big time (peak charges). If these operations cause us to set a new peak who pays? When does an operation like this become a commercial one and not allowed in a residential location? Noise bylaw to deal with the fans?
    All good questions that you asked but it looks like very little response.

    1. gftvboss Post author

      I think you’re correct in pointing out that an operation there would likely buy direct from Fortis . . . which leaves me wondering what the impact on Fortis might be. One bitcoin mine might not be all that stressing to their system . . . but I doubt there’s be only one. Maybe not all would be in the city but all would be direct or indirect Fortis supplied operations.
      As I understand the Ruckle situation, IF the buyout / relocation option becomes the final one, the area will be rezoned non-residential. And the fan noise might not be all that much louder, or disagreeable, than the yard machine noise from the Interfor mill.
      I wasn’t really expecting that the politicians would have much to say – unlike you they aren’t well steeped in electrical utility operations. But I did want to get it on record so council (as an official body) is made publicly aware in the hopes that one or more elected officials have it on their radar so just maybe the city can get ahead of this and be pro-active instead of reactive.
      If might be something for a future council to bring to UBCM or AKBLG because we won’t be the only small community facing this. And maybe the province’s utility board should consider this new, and ravenous, electricity consuming sector.


Leave a Reply