How Bitcoin mining saved Africa’s oldest national park from bankruptcy

Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo became the first national park in the world to operate Bitcoin (Bitcoin) mined to protect forests and wildlife. Cointelegraph spoke with Sebastian Guspiro, his CEO of Big Block Green Services, and the person who introduced his Bitcoin mining to the park.

“Bitcoin mining saved the park from bankruptcy,” said Guspiroux in a video call with a smile.

Virunga is Africa’s oldest protected park and a symbol of the continent’s biodiversity. A report by journalist Adam Popescu, It was published The MIT Technology Review explained that the region was plagued with pre-Bitcoin mining problems. From local militias who have staged violent attacks on animals and workers, to Ebola outbreaks and kidnappings, the iconic national park has struggled to generate income in recent years.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent eradication of tourism has nearly nailed the coffin of the park as it has dried up visitors to see gorillas, other wildlife and waterfalls. The article explains that tourism makes up about 40% of the park’s revenue.

From left, JF Augusti, Seb Gouspillou, and Emmanuel de Merode, co-founders of Big Block Green Services. Source: Guspirou

When Guspirou learned of the conflict for the park, he felt compelled to help. He met Emmanuel de Merode, director of the park and prince of Belgian blood, at a chateau in France at the end of 2019.

The park can monetize its abundant and untapped natural resources to maintain its existence. Gouspillou explained to his De Merode how Virunga will utilize his Bitcoin mining to generate income.

Conversation at the chateau was uninterrupted. “It must have gone on for hours,” Guspirou explained. Discussions, as well as a follow-up and visit to Congo, eventually culminated in De Merode setting up the first part of his mining operation in early 2020, his September of that year. successfully mined the first coin.

A bitcoin mine in Virunga set against the backdrop of a park.Source: Twitter

Almost three years later, Park has made a lot of money off of the meantime 2021 Bull Market Monthsthe park earned more than $150,000 a month in rewards, almost completely offsetting the lost tourist revenue.

The Virunga bitcoin mine is a unique solution to the problem of generating revenue while protecting the park’s biodiversity. Bitcoin mining is a very energy-intensive process, but Virunga’s mining is unique in that it runs on clean energy. Environmentally friendly technology surrounded by green rainforest.

The mine is powered by three hydroelectric power plants in the park. This is a sustainable source of electricity already used to power nearby towns. The site employed nine full-time workers and staffed the facility to work shifts to operate the miners in the jungle. A fearless Ranger guards the site — a story that, among other things, inspired a Netflix documentary.

Guspiro and Ranger pose in front of a Bitcoin mine.Source: Guspirou

The facility has 10 shipping containers, each containing 250-500 rigs. Virunga owns three of these containers, and Gouspillou owns the remaining seven. Guspirou buys energy from Virunga as part of the deal while keeping the bitcoin mined.

Additionally, as Gouspillou explains, existing Bitcoin mining facilities are part of the “Global Plan” and there are opportunities for further power generation. Other power plants will be installed throughout the park to connect local villages to power and, of course, to mine more bitcoin, he explained.

De Merode is a firm believer that the project will succeed. ongoing bear marketSure, some Bitcoin miners fell victim to the 2022 bear market, but De Merode occupies a unique position. Rather than speculating on the value of Bitcoin, Park uses surplus energy to generate Bitcoin and monetize what is otherwise worthless.

Virunga National Park is known for its gorillas. Source:

Furthermore, if De Merode were killed in action, there would be little risk of losing Bitcoin (or the private key).more than 200 of his park guards or rangers killed Since 1996 — and De Merode was shot twice during a trip to Goma in 2014, it’s a tragic but likely result that requires preparation.

The park’s finance team manages the custody of the Bitcoin wallet, and the funds generated by mining are regularly sold to pay for the maintenance of the park. In an MIT Technology Review article, De Merode said:

“I need money to run the park, so I am unlikely to stay in bitcoin for more than a few weeks anyway. but it didn’t cost much.”

Similar to the treatment of El Salvador in the mainstream media, the “bet” made by De Merode has drawn skepticism from experts wondering what cryptocurrencies have to do with protection. Gouspillou explained that De Merode took time to call the project a bitcoin mining project and used the more PR-friendly term “blockchain mining”.

Hydroelectric power plants and bitcoin mines are located in dense rainforest.Source: Guspirou

Guspirou fails to find the downside to the story of how bitcoin mining saved national parks.

“It’s really hard to find a downside to this story.

ASICS, or Application Specific Integrated Circuits, are Bitcoin mining machines. ASICS participates in a digital lottery every 10 minutes to guess the next bitcoin block on the bitcoin time chain. As Gouspillou explains, these machines are dismantled and recycled. Avoid e-waste. Miners will use their surplus clean energy, and De Merode will use the funds to protect wildlife.

Guspiro (middle) and a park ranger pose in front of a Bitcoin mine.Source: Guspirou

Encouraged by his success in Congo, Guspirow is eyeing other Bitcoin mining projects in sub-Saharan Africa. He was part of a delegation that visited the Central African Republic. Second country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.

Bitcoin mining projects in Africa using untapped renewable energy seem to be on the rise. from the mountains of kenya To Malawi’s tropical climateBitcoin mining is occurring in unharmed regions of the planet.

Magdalena Gronowska Regular Contributor to Cointelegraph A Bitcoin mining specialist explains why:

“Miners are the first resort (always wanting to do) purchasers and the last resort to overproduce energy locations in order to become economically viable. As it rises, bitcoin mining may be reduced or completely eliminated, but it has made it possible to build critical infrastructure.”

Essentially, if an area is energy deficient or overproduced, bitcoin mining can be financially attractive.

Despite this, the park still needs funding and investment. The Congolese government provides just 1% of its operating budget, but tourism remains low while conflict threatens security. As Gouspillou explains, Bitcoin mining is one of his solutions to the park’s problems, providing a revenue stream that can be used to protect the park and its wildlife for years to come. .