North America’s Largest Solar Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming To California (#GotBitcoin?)
California-based mining company Plouton Mining will build North America’s largest solar-powered bitcoin mining farm, the company confirmed in a press release on June 25. North America’s Largest Solar Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming To California (#GotBitcoin?)
Plouton, which is a subsidiary of Plouton Group Holding, says the site in Western Mojave will feature around 49 acres of solar panels generating 10-13 megawatts of electricity daily.
The location was chosen due to its high annual quota of sunlight, which averages 70%, with the company planning to enter agreements with local utilities providers to secure low-cost power for the remaining time.
“The preeminent combination of nature and technology will usher in the next stage of bitcoin mining evolution, fulfilling the promise of Bitcoin as a sustainable, decentralized network of transactions,” Ramak J. Sedigh, the operation’s CEO, commented in the press release.
“We are very pleased to offer people the opportunity to participate in the growing Bitcoin blockchain economy without having to purchase the mining equipment themselves.”
As Cointelegraph reported, the uptick in bitcoin (BTC) price has led to a resurgence in both mining profitability and decentralization as smaller participants gain easier access to the market.
At the same time, the period since last November has seen major upheaval among the industry’s traditional heavyweights such as Bitmain, which have variously enacted staff cuts and closures to stem financial losses.
Canada’s Hut 8, one of the world’s largest publicly-traded cryptocurrency mining companies, in May reported 2018 losses of $140 million.
Long subject to claims it is environmentally damaging, bitcoin mining has meanwhile received better publicity in recent times after a study revealed more than 70% of activity already utilizes renewable energy.
Bitcoin Miner Buys 5,000 ASICs As Network Hash Rate Climbs To New All-Time High
German Bitcoin (BTC) mining company Northern Bitcoin has signed a deal to buy almost 5,000 mining rigs from Bitmain and Canaan Creative, the company confirmed in a press release on July 1.
Northern, which is headquartered in Frankfurt but operates a site in Norway, aims to double its capacity, currently operating with 55 petahashes per second.
The expansion is part of a long-term scaling plan with a focus on sustainable energy which began last week, officials explained, as the Bitcoin mining industry becomes ever more popular and competitive.
“The acquisition of the sought-after hardware is a great success for our company,” Moritz F. Jäger, CTO of Northern, commented in the press release.
“With the doubling of our mining equipment just a few days after the start of our global scaling, we are setting the pace with which we aim to take a leading position in the fast-growing blockchain industry in the coming years.”
The announcement came at the same time as the Bitcoin network’s overall hash rate hit yet another new record. As of Monday, the number had surpassed 69 quintillion hashes per second – as investor Kevin Rooke noted, ten times the number of grains of sand on Earth.
Northern meanwhile added it would seek to open new sites in future at as yet undisclosed locations.
Last week also saw U.S. mining operator Plouton Mining announce a new plant in California, set to become North America’s largest solar-powered installation.
As Cointelegraph reported, current estimates consider around 74% of the world’s Bitcoin mining activity to come from sustainable sources.
German Firm Unveils Mobile Eco-Friendly Bitcoin Mining Containers
Bitcoin (BTC) mining infrastructure firm Northern Bitcoin AG has announced the completion of tests for its new air-cooled mining container, which houses 144 ASIC miners.
A press release published on Sept. 9 outlined that the highly mobile container solution has been designed as a piece of flexible and efficient infrastructure that will enable the firm to establish mining pools in countries with year-round cool locations.
Setting Up Shop Anywhere Energy Is Cheap, Sustainable
Headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, Northern AG develops and operates Bitcoin-focused mining hardware that uses renewable energy sources and aims to attain optimal efficiency and sustainability.
The press release notes that Northern AG has developed and operated a mining pool with 21 water-cooled 41-foot containers — housing 210 ASIC miners each — in Norway for over a year.
The new water-cooled container has reportedly been developed with partners in Germany and will allow the firm to extend its operations, flexibly and at short notice, to new locations across Scandinavia.
Its 20-foot design — with a capacity to house 144 ASIC miners — has a significantly higher miner density than the earlier water-cooled containers. The firm says it is focused on deploying its mobile mining solutions in permanently cool locations where sustainable energy sources such as hydropower are cheap and abundant.
As the press release notes, efficient temperature control is critical for compute-intensive Bitcoin mining operations, during which the hardware required typically generates significant heat.
Bitcoin Mining Getting More Energy-Efficient
As recently reported, fresh data from aggregator Statista has indicated that Bitcoin (BTC) energy consumption is becoming rapidly more efficient, even as the global network’s hash rate continues to hit record highs.
Energy consumption as of July 2019 was 69.79 terawatt hours per year. In July 2018, the figure was 71.12 terawatts, while hash rate was almost 60% lower than at present.
A study in June found that three-quarters of Bitcoin mining activity is powered by renewable energy sources.
Mining hardware manufacturers such as Bitmain are similarly seeking to develop new solutions with greater processing capabilities and lower energy demands.
Bitcoin Mining Firms Merge To Build World’s Largest Purported Mining Farm In 2020
German Bitcoin (BTC) mining firm Northern Bitcoin has entered a merger agreement with United States-based competitor Whinstone to jointly build what will supposedly be world’s largest mining farm.
According to a Northern Bitcoin press release published on Nov. 18, Whinstone is already building the aforementioned facility which is expected to have a capacity of one gigawatt on an area of over 100 acres in Texas. The mining farm in question will allegedly be the largest data center in North America.
A Quick Construction Plan
The first phase of the construction — which is expected to conclude in Q1 2020 — will already have a capacity of 300 megawatts. Construction is expected to be completed in Q4 2020.
The first two clients that will take advantage of the upcoming facility will reportedly be two publicly traded corporations that will use a significant portion of its capacity for Bitcoin mining. Still, after its completion, the data center will also allow for the acceleration of video rendering and artificial intelligence applications.
Northern Bitcoin is a stock-traded company founded last year that specializes in sustainable Bitcoin mining. The firm operates a mining farm on renewable energy in Norway.
The idea of placing the world’s largest mining facility in the U.S. is interesting, given that China has so far been at the forefront of the cryptocurrency mining industry and hosts many of the leading companies of the industry, such as Bitmain.
According to a recent analysis, low power costs in addition to access to cheap hardware make China a competitive destination for cryptocurrency mining operations, despite the country’s legal environment.
1 Gigawatt Bitcoin Mine Under Construction in Texas Would Dwarf Bitmain’s
Bitmain, which recently broke ground on a massive bitcoin mine at a former Alcoa plant in Texas, will have competition for that “world’s largest” mantle.
A project broke ground this month that would start at 300 megawatts and expand to 1 gigawatt by the end of next year, dwarfing Bitmain’s mine that contemplates expanding from 25 MW to 50 MW to only 300 megawatts in its largest phase.
Data center developer Whinstone US, which owns a bitcoin mine in Louisiana and has been building in the Netherlands and Sweden, assembled the Rockdale project in partnership with GMO Internet, Japan’s version of GoDaddy.
A week after the ground-breaking on Nov. 7, Whinstone US agreed to be acquired by Germany’s Northern Bitcoin, which runs a bitcoin mine in Norway on renewable resources.
In the all stock deal, Northern Bitcoin will issue 3,720,750 new shares to Whinstone US shareholders, according to Northern Bitcoin’s head of communications.
On Wednesday, shares in Northern Bitcoin (ETR: NB2) jumped 42% to €23.60, valuing the company at about €180 million.
The data center will cost $150 million to build and furnish, Whinstone estimated when it unveiled the jobs-ready project to much locale fanfare on Nov. 1.
The mine would ramp up to full capacity through 2020, with 300 megawatts of power slated to come online in the first quarter and the full 1 gigawatt scheduled for the fourth quarter.
In fact, the dueling mining projects share a common landlord. Both inhabit real estate owned by Aluminum giant Alcoa which purchased the 33,000+ acre plot of land in the 1950s and turned the area locally known as Sandow Lakes Ranch into an industrial hub.
Northern Bitcoin said two listed companies have signed on as its first clients and they “will use a significant portion of the capacity for Bitcoin mining,” but the company declined to name them.
In a joint statement announcing their merger, Aroosh Thillainathan, co-founder of Whinstone US, said the deal could “shape the future course of the global mining industry” and Mathis Schultz, CEO of Northern Bitcoin AG, said the merger “catapults” his firm launched in 2018 to the top of the pack faster than planned.
In July, Whinstone’s previous proposed merger fell through after Hydro66 Holdings Corp., a Swedish data center builder, completed its own capital raise and backed out of the deal.
Russian Oligarch Turns Soviet Plant Into a Major Bitcoin Mining Hub
The largest data center in the former Soviet Union, BitRiver, opened about a year ago in the Siberian city of Bratsk and most of its clients use the facility to mine Bitcoin (BTC), Bloomberg reported on Nov. 24.
The data center allows cryptocurrency miners to take advantage of cheap energy in what once used to be the world’s largest aluminum smelter. The plant was built by the USSR in the 1960s with the still-active hydropower plant to power its operations.
Cold Climate, Cheap Energy
The data center’s location also benefits from a cold climate, allowing mining hardware to work at higher efficiency rates while cutting cooling costs.
Billionaire and president of the world’s second-largest aluminum company Rusal, Oleg Deripaska, is Bitriver’s biggest shareholder. He reportedly had the idea of building the data center about five years ago and directed his company Rusal alongside aluminum and power producer En+ to repurpose the facilities.
According to Bloomberg, Russian law does not recognize cryptocurrency mining. Because of this legal gray area, Bitriver does not directly engage in mining, but only provides equipment and technical services to its clients — including from Japan, China and the United States — operating like any other data center.
En+, in which Deripaska and his family own a 45% stake, supplies up to 100 megawatts of power to the facility, enough energy to sustain 100,000 homes. The plant is the largest hydropower plant in Russia and the data center allows it to constantly sell excess energy and diversify its client base.
BitRiver is paying for the power 2.4 rubles per kilowatt-hour, equivalent to about $0.038 without value-added tax and sells it at 3.5 rubles ($0.055) per kWh to miners. For comparison, the average price of electricity in the United States is about $0.12 per kWh.
Bitcoin Miners Unfazed By BTC Price Drop
Bitcoin and the overall cryptocurrency market saw a significant drop in price earlier this week, as BTC briefly fell under $7,000. Still, miners are seemingly keen to continue boosting their capacity.
“There is NO miner capitulation,” commented Bitcoin entrepreneur Alistair Milne on Sunday following a rise in network hash rate and expected difficulty hike. He continued:
“They are acutely aware of the upcoming halving and are apparently unphased by the recent dip.”
As Cointelegraph reported earlier this week, German Bitcoin mining firm Northern Bitcoin has entered a merger agreement with United States-based competitor Whinstone to jointly build what will supposedly be the world’s largest mining farm.
Why Bitcoin Mining Is Being Touted As A Solution To Gas Flaring
A Denver-based company that installs data centers at shale drilling sites to take advantage of excess natural gas supplies says it now has eight operations across the U.S. and plans another 30 in the first half of next year.
The centers are being touted as a way to solve the growing problem of gas flaring, where energy companies burn off excess gas. Flaring has risen to a record in Texas this year amid a lack of pipeline capacity.
Closely held Crusoe Energy Systems Inc. is harnessing some of the surplus gas at source to turn it into electricity, powering the data centers that in turn generate revenue by mining Bitcoin. The company will install 70 units next year, each with a capacity of about 1 megawatt, which would keep about 10 million cubic feet a day of gas from being flared, Chief Executive Officer Chase Lochmiller said in an interview.
“It’s a very creative way to solve an environmental and economic problem for the oil and gas industry,” said Alex Urdea, the chief investment officer of Upper90 Capital Management LLC, which has agreed to provide Crusoe with $40 million of project financing. The business model is attracting interest from large oil and gas producers, and it could eventually involve revenue sharing, he added. Crusoe also raised $30 million by selling equity to investors including Bain Capital Ventures.
Earlier this year, Crusoe raised $5 million of seed capital from investors including Winklevoss Capital Management LLC. Multiple units can be deployed at a single site to build scale. As the number of active units increases, Crusoe plans to start using some of that computing capability to develop a new artificial intelligence cloud-computing service.
Bitcoin Miner Riot Blockchain Announces Additional 1,000-Rig Purchase
Cryptocurrency mining firm Riot Blockchain announced the purchase of an additional 1,000 next-generation Bitmain S17-Pro Antminers on Dec.12. This completes the upgrade of its Oklahoma City mining facility, following an initial purchase of 3,000 units announced on Dec. 4.
The latest generation of Application-Specific Integrated Circuit miners from mining hardware giant Bitmain represents an approximate 50% improvement in hardware power efficiency compared to the S9 Antminers currently in use by Riot.
The company anticipates that the new miners will generate 440% of the hashrate of the S9s while consuming only 220% of the power.
Riot mined over 1,820 Bitcoins (BTC) in Q3 2019, posting a gross profit margin of 14% (excluding depreciation and amortization), and hopes to increase these figures when its new purchases are deployed in Q1 2020.
Full steam ahead
Assuming full utilization of the Oklahoma City facility’s 12-megawatt available electricity supply, and deployment of the total 4,000 new miners, Riot estimates the aggregate operating hashrate will be around 248 petahash (248 quadrillion hases) per second.
Riot reportedly paid around $1.35 million dollars for the additional 1,000 S17-Pro Antminers, or approximately $1,350 per rig. The retail price listed on the Bitmain web-store is $1401 per unit, although this is unlikely to include local sales tax.
In April this year, Riot Blockchain announced its intention to launch a regulated cryptocurrency exchange in the United States by the end of Q2 2019. To date, however, this has still failed to materialize.
SBI, GMO Reportedly Sign Deal with Operator of World’s Largest Bitcoin Mining Site
The operator of what is set to become the world’s largest Bitcoin (BTC) mining facility has reportedly signed a deal with Japanese financial services giant SBI and internet provider GMO.
A Jan. 7 BNN Bloomberg report claims that the two Japanese mega-firms have agreed in principle to process cryptocurrency transactions at a new mining facility — of unprecedented scale — now being developed in Rockdale, Texas.
The facility will be operated by Whinstone Inc., a subsidiary of the Frankfurt-based Northern Bitcoin AG.
Whinstone — which has been operating since 2014 and has its own mining sites across the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States — merged with Northern Bitcoin in November 2019 as the latter geared up to construct what is being slated as “the largest data center in North America and the largest Bitcoin mining facility in the world,” on an area of over 40 hectares.
Neither SBI nor GMO immediately responded to Cointelegraph’s request for comment to confirm the partnership.
Texas: an emergent global mining hub
Northern Bitcoin AG’s new site will reportedly launch operations with an initial capacity of 300 megawatts, expected to hit 1 gigawatt by the close of 2020.
This would outstrip by almost three times the capacity of what is currently held to be the world’s largest crypto mining site, operated by China’s Bitmain Technologies Ltd. and situated on the former Alcoa aluminum smelter, also in Rockdale.
Alcoa, which closed in 2008, had been at the epicenter of the town’s once-thriving aluminum industry in the 1950s, and a key driver of population and economic growth, together with the nearby Sandow Power Plant, which shuttered in early 2018.
As per Mike McGlone, a senior commodity strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence, an inflow of large cryptocurrency miners is now flocking to Texas, drawn by its abundance of cheap and renewable energy sources, particularly wind.
Wind-power accounted for over 20% of Texas’ electricity generation in 2019 and is expected to overtake coal for the first time this year, BloombergNEF data indicates.
Alongside Northern Bitcoin AG, U.S. mining startup Layer1 — backed by Peter Thiel and Digital Currency Group — is planning to set up a proprietary power sub-station on the plains of West Texas to generate solar and wind energy for its Bitcoin mining operations.
Investors Remain Bullish
On the heels of a volatile year for the cryptocurrency markets, McGlone commented on news of SBI and GMO’s reported involvement in the new mining site, observing that:
“Bitcoin is attracting more institutional investors and with the notion of limited supply and mass adoption — Bitcoin is winning this race.”
SBI, for its part, has taken a diverse, rather than maximalist, strategy as regards digital assets: it has a history of close involvement with XRP and Ripple, recently revealing it is considering the possibility of paying shareholder dividends in the token.
It also continues to work as part of the joint venture SBI Ripple Asia, which was formed to promote XRP’s usage in Asian financial markets in 2016.
Canada’s DMG Blockchain Installs 1,000 New Bitcoin Mining Rigs For US Client
Canadian tech company DMG Blockchain Solutions has installed 1,000 new Bitcoin (BTC) mining machines at its Christina Lake mining-as-a-service facility in British Columbia.
Per a Jan. 6 press release, DMG has purchased the new miners from Chinese mining giant Bitmain, with the total power consumption of approximately 1.5 megawatts.
Initially announced in December of last year, the newly installed mining equipment will serve a U.S.-based client, whose name was not revealed in the release. DMG operates as an industrial scale crypto mine hosting company, allowing clients to mine crypto through equipment stationed at its facilities in Northwest Canada.
DMG’s Crypto Mining Developments
DMG’s COO Sheldon Bennett said that “DMG made a decision to focus on attracting large scale hosting clients as profitable crypto-mining is a function of creating cost efficiencies, and our mining facility is well suited for industrial miners.”
Last October, DMG and Bitmain entered an exploratory agreement, under which DMG has been managing Bitmain’s Texas-based facility and set up nearly 15,000 next-generation miners.
In November 2018, DMG energized its new crypto mining facility, stating that the facility would start at 60 megawatts, and can expand its capacity up to 85 megawatts. The 27,000 square foot crypto mining-as-a-service operation occupies an area of 34 acres and is ostensibly one of the biggest such operations in North America.
Since the facility uses hydroelectric power — of which there is a surplus in Canada — the operation reportedly does not affect the power needs of local residents.
Crypto Mining Proliferates
On Jan. 8, digital currency mining firm Riot Blockchain began deploying around 3,000 new units of S17 Pro Antminers purchased from Bitmain as part of the full upgrade of its Oklahoma City mining facility.
Riot anticipates that, following the deployment of all 4,000 next-generation miners, its aggregate operating hashrate at the Oklahoma City mining facility will reach approximately 248 petahash per second, representing a 240% increase in hardware power efficiency compared to its mining hashrate.
Childhood Friends Battle Over Ownership of North America’s Largest Bitcoin Mine
Just four years ago, two lifelong friends from New Orleans turned a small initial investment into the largest crypto miner in North America.
When their company, Coinmint, bought a former Alcoa plant in upstate New York, they brought hope the new economics of cryptocurrencies would revive a region that suffered with the decline of American manufacturing.
But just as they should be preparing for the impending “halving” of bitcoin in May – an era-defining moment for the industry – the four-year-old company is now grappling with an existential threat: a lawsuit filed in a Delaware court by one of its two co-founders, who is seeking nothing less than the dissolution of the company and liquidation of its assets.
The business of mining bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies using high-speed computers is humming: Bitcoin prices are up 36 percent this year alone after nearly doubling in 2019. Mining firms are scrambling to raise capital from investors to set up large-scale data centers, upgrade equipment and expand processing power. The bitcoin network is months away from its next “halving” – a once-every-four-years occurrence that some analysts say could drive prices even higher. Before that happens, the partnership that owns Coinmint may itself be halved, along with the lifelong friendship of its co-founders.
Coinmint was started in 2016 when childhood friends Ashton Soniat and Prieur Leary each put $25,000 into the cryptocurrency prospecting firm. They would go on to develop a bitcoin mine in Massena, N.Y., that is now believed to be the largest such facility in North America; it draws some 80 megawatts of power, or the same amount used by roughly 60,000 average U.S. households.
Executives with the project have been lining up financing to install another 40 megawatts worth of capacity by May. The new production would come on line just in time for the halving, which under the terms of the bitcoin network’s original protocol will cut in half the number of bitcoins awarded to miners for helping to confirm data transactions on the blockchain. If bitcoin’s price surges, mining firms could win big. If it doesn’t, they would likely see a steep drop-off in profits.
Leary, a co-founder who until recently was Coinmint’s president, filed the dissolution suit in Delaware Chancery Court in December, claiming Soniat, who serves as CEO, unilaterally moved Coinmint’s headquarters to Puerto Rico and then shut him out of day-to-day management.
In phone interviews from his home in Miami Beach, Fla., Leary, 51, said he has put a lot of time, effort and money into Coinmint and he doesn’t want his investment at risk. He said Coinmint has received purchase offers from private equity firms at valuations above $80 million, but Soniat has thus far spurned any deal.
“I believe that it’s imprudent to risk your entire business on whether the halving is priced in or not,” Leary said.
In an email, Soniat, 50, said he is prepared to defend himself against the “spurious allegations” and that Leary’s claims are baseless. Soniat said he’s poured in almost all of the additional capital needed to fund Coinmint’s development and operations, and that Leary’s stake now amounts to just 18 percent. He contends Leary was fully aware of Coinmint’s conversion to a Puerto Rican limited liability company in 2018.
Leary’s actions are “simply another misguided attempt” to “bolster his financial standing at the expense of a company in which he owns an interest,” the statement read. “Despite the distraction of the lawsuit, Coinmint has continued to focus on, and is committed to, building a world-class cryptocurrency-mining enterprise.”
The dispute comes at a critical time for the crypto-mining industry, which has evolved in recent years from being dominated by hobbyists or small operators running one or a handful of computers in their kitchens or basements. With bitcoin and cryptocurrencies now gaining momentum, the business has become the province of big-money, institutional-scale developers, requiring wholesale electricity procurement contracts, large-scale site management and heavy capital investments in state-of-the-art data centers.
In an example of the rising costs of crypto mining, Coinmint went so far as to pay $15,000 a month last year to retain a New York-based public affairs adviser, Michael McKeon of the consulting firm Mercury. McKeon was a top communications aide and campaign adviser to former New York Governor George Pataki and also worked on former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign in 2008.
New bitcoin mining facilities sprouting up in Texas, Washington State, New York and some Canadian provinces are becoming so large they’ve been pitched as economic development projects to create jobs for remote communities with otherwise few opportunities.
Indeed, Coinmint Chief Financial Officer Michael Maloney said in an interview the planned expansion at Massena will add about 50 jobs, in addition to the roughly 100 employees who work there now.
Yet, as with many of the projects across the nation, there’s been an accompanying backlash. Nearby residents complain of elevated electricity bills. Environmentalists warn the extra draw on power from crypto mines could lead to more emissions from fossil fuel-burning generating plants, contributing to climate change.
From Big Easy To Big Difficulty
Coinmint’s story dates back decades before bitcoin was even invented. Leary and Soniat became acquainted as teenagers living in New Orleans in the 1980s.
“We went to different schools but we were in the same circles,” Leary recalled. “We were mostly party friends. We had a group of guys that all hung around together, and he was in our group.”
Soniat pursued a career in energy trading, working for the likes of Enron, TXU Energy and Deutsche Bank before starting his own firm in 2009. Leary went into the data-center business.
When Leary called Soniat in 2016 to pitch the idea of forming a partnership to start a bitcoin mine, it seemed like a natural fit. Both men had endured acrimonious breakups in prior business ventures that ended in courtroom disputes, but the cryptocurrency venture provided new grounds for optimism.
“It made sense,” Soniat said in a phone interview from Puerto Rico. “I looked at bitcoin mining as a play on electricity.”
Following the initial $25,000 capital contribution from each of the partners, Soniat provided nearly all of the capital needed for the buildout.
“Ashton was more on the financial side,” Leary said. “I’m the guy who found the sites and made it happen.”
The first two years were good for the business, Leary said, with bitcoin prices rallying 30-fold over the course of 2016 and 2017. Soniat, who lives in Puerto Rico, donated $150,000 to the island territory’s Sacred Heart University to strengthen a scholarship program, according to a February 2017 report from the Puerto Rican business-news website News Is My Business.
That same year, the pal-partners secured a lease on 1,300 acres at a former Alcoa aluminum-smelting plant in the town of Massena in upstate New York, not far from the St. Lawrence River, opposite the eastern end of Ontario, Canada. The town has been hit hard in recent decades by factory closures.
As of the most recent census estimates, Massena had an unemployment rate of some 21 percent, more than five times the current U.S. average.
But Massena boasts natural resources that are attractive to bitcoin miners like Coinmint. The regional electricity grid draws supply from nearby hydropower plants, once prized by the smelters. Another key feature is that it’s usually cold, with an average temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit (6.7 Celsius).
The chilly clime increases the efficiency and reliability of the bitcoin-mining computers, typically running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In mid-2018, Coinmint said it would invest as much as $700 million in the Massena facility, creating an estimated 150 jobs over the ensuing 18 months, CNBC reported at the time. The plant has the potential for upgrades up to 435 megawatts of crypto-mining capacity.
“That was the original plan,” Leary said, “but the plan didn’t go the way we thought it was going to go.”
Bitcoin’s price tumbled 73 percent in 2018, raising questions not just about Coinmint’s prospects but about the very future of cryptocurrencies. As the partners deliberated over next steps, the friendship became strained.
Coinmint got hit with a lawsuit from a landlord in Plattsburgh, N.Y., where it was operating a separate, smaller bitcoin mine from space in a strip mall. Local residents complained their monthly utility bills were soaring because the operations were sucking up so much electricity. (Coinmint recently suspended operations in Plattsburgh, at least until March.)
In August 2018, Coinmint considered launching its own digital token to pre-sell batches of bitcoin mining processing power known as “hashrate” to buyers. Each token would be equivalent to one terahash, or a trillion computations, of bitcoin mining, according to a press release at the time. The token represented a potential new source of financing, but it has never been listed on a cryptocurrency exchange. A person close to Coinmint said none of the tokens were ever actually sold.
From Leary’s perspective, the Massena project has come to a crossroads where deeper pockets are needed to fund the next phase. He said the company is low on cash reserves, even as it needs a significant jolt of new capital to fund needed expansions and upgrades. He said many of the computers at the Massena facility are older-vintage machines that could become unprofitable following the halving.
“Bitcoin mining has become a big-money business,” Leary said. “Coinmint still has a great advantage, but if you want to compete with the Chinese, you have to partner with deep pockets or you have to have deep pockets yourself.”
Soniat loaned Coinmint more than $20 million, an obligation that until recently remained on the company’s books.
“Ashton is a trader,” Leary said. “He is more aggressive and a risk taker than me. To his credit, the company wouldn’t be where it is today without taking some risks. But we’ve reached a point where it’s too big and there’s too much risk. It’s not a fun situation for me.”
Last year, a private equity firm offered to buy a stake in Coinmint at a valuation of over $80 million; a few months later, a reduced offer valued the company closer to $60 million. In addition to the bids from private equity firms, Coinmint attracted interest from Chinese investors but Soniat didn’t want to engage.
“I kept pushing to do a deal,” Leary said. “He thought they were low-ball offers.”
By November of last year, relations between the childhood friends grew so strained that Soniat sent Leary an email saying he wasn’t sure he wanted to work with him anymore.
Leary traveled to Puerto Rico for two days to meet with Soniat, but his old buddy refused to talk with him.
Eventually, Leary’s lawyer, Ben Wolkov of the Miami-based firm AXS Law Group, recommended the dissolution petition.
“It’s a case of one partner just shutting another one out unlawfully, in our view,” Wolkov said in a phone interview. “This company’s going to have to deal with the industry waters, and the halving’s a concern, having to upgrade the equipment and the capital intensive nature of that endeavor. My client’s been left out in the dark.”
Soniat “went through the roof” when he found out the suit had been filed, and he sent out emails to Coinmint employees telling them not to talk to his partner, Leary said.
Soniat said in the phone interview he’s the majority owner of Coinmint, so decisions over a sale or new financing are his to make. He added that Leary’s description of the private equity offers is “categorically false.”
Coinmint is a private company and Soniat declined to disclose financial details, but noted: “I’ve provided the vast majority of money for the growth of the company through equity injections.”
Hashing It Out – Or Not?
In the meantime, Coinmint is moving ahead with an expansion of the Massena plant. Maloney, the CFO, who previously worked for the crypto-focused investment firm Galaxy Digital, said in phone interviews the company recently started installing more cryptocurrency-mining computers at the facility and expects the additional capacity to be ready by the start of May, just in time for the halving.
Last month, Coinmint revisited the idea of selling hashpower. It turned to BitOoda, a crypto-focused brokerage firm based in Jersey City, N.J., to arrange a financial contract with an unnamed counterparty for “the purchase and sale of large blocks of physically-delivered bitcoin hashpower,” according to a Jan. 27 press release.
Similar to commodity futures, the contracts allow mining firms to hedge against the risk of price drops while raising new financing in the short term.
Terms of the contract weren’t disclosed, but Maloney said the hashpower contracts should bring in funds to support the Massena expansion. BitOoda’s CEO, Tim Kelly, said in a phone interview he has investors lined up to buy “tens of millions of dollars” of the contracts.
“It’s difficult to get a loan from a traditional financial company like a bank,” Maloney said. “They don’t understand the nature of bitcoin.”
Leary, who wasn’t consulted on the BitOoda contract, says he really just wants a court-mediated solution to the whole affair.
“These partner-friend breakups can be the most unfortunate,” Leary said. “At the end of the day, my goal is to work this out. Hopefully he’ll read this article.”
Chinese Group Looking To Buy One of Latin America’s Largest Bitcoin Mines
Rocelo Lopes, CEO of Stratum, CoinPY, and one of the leading names in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency market in Latin America, is negotiating the sale of Brazilian-owned, Paraguay-registered mining farm CoinPY, once a leading crypto company in Latin America.
According to exclusive information obtained by Cointelegraph, the negotiation is already advanced and the entire mining plant in Paraguay will be sold to a Chinese group that already operates similar farms in China.
Chinese Miners Concerned About Tightening Regulations
The group reportedly sought out Lopes for regulatory reasons, imagining a difficult scenario in China after the launch of any Chinese central bank digital currency (CBDC) that could cause a new wave of persecution in the cryptocurrency industry.
Tightening Regulations Cause Chinese Miners To Look Elsewhere
The move follows other Chinese miners looking for alternative locations to set up operations, as the world’s leading Bitcoin mining region is Sichuan. The rainy season there runs from April to September, and many miners move operations to Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Yunnan during the dry season to take advantage of the energy generated by thermal power companies.
Like Paraguay, countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are attracting Chinese mining companies looking to house older and less-profitable equipment like Antiminer S9, E10 and M3. In farms in China, they would stick to more cutting-edge equipment for logistical reasons.
Changes In Machinery And Management
In the case of the sale of CoinPY to the Chinese, all equipment at the Brazil-registered, Paraguay-based mining farm will have to be removed, according to sources speaking to Cointelegraph under anonymity. This way, Lopes would have until the end of February to remove all the machines he has in his space.
As CoinPY hosted third-party machines, customers have been notified of the destination they wish to give the equipment, mostly the Antminer S9. The negotiations also involve letting the Chinese consult with CoinPY for up to 8 years, which involves not only aspects of mining but governmental and regulatory relationships as well.
With the progress toward purchasing CoinPY, the Chinese would have already shipped their equipment to Paraguay and closed some plants in China. Cointelegraph asked the businessman for more details, but did not receive an answer.
While talking about Bitcoin mining on a television program, Lopes recently pointed out that mining has become more professional and that halving would permanently kill the possibility of any mining that not being done on a large scale.
As Cointelegraph reported recently, a Bitcoin mining farm in China was closed and all machines were shut down due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
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