How the blare of a crypto mine woke up this Blue Ridge Mountain town

Murphy, North Carolina

When Judy Steins first heard Cryptocurrency“I always thought it was smoke and mirrors,” she said. “But if that’s what you want to invest in, you do you.”

But then she heard sound Her ambivalence turned into activism with what neighbor Mike Lugiwicz describes as “a little jet that never leaves”. It was coming from stacks and stacks of installed computer servers and cooling fans.

When they opened fire and the noise began bouncing around their Blue Ridge Mountain home, Lugiewicz said a sound level meter in the garden showed readings between 55 and 85 decibels, depending on the weather, but the noise didn’t stop. Facts are more annoying than volume.

“There’s a racetrack three miles (3 km) from here,” Lugiewicz said, pointing away from the cryptocurrency mine next door. “I can hear the cars driving. Cool!” “But at least they stop,” exclaimed Stines. “And you can sleep!”

Initially, people around Murphy, North Carolina believed that mining for so-called “proof of work” cryptocurrency was more like a billion-sided dice. Instead of a shovel, a modern miner needs a huge amount of server power in order to roll winning numbers faster than his competitors around the world.

This constant demand for electricity was one reason China bans cryptocurrencies, from Appalachia to New York’s Finger Lakes, a virtual gold rush has begun. Cryptocurrency miners have started placing their bets where electricity is cheap and affordable. Even with land use and noise regulations, enforcement is weak. Murphy’s mine is just one of 12 he owns in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina owned by a San Francisco-based company called PrimeBlock. PrimeBlock recently announced a $300 million equity financing and plans to scale and go public.

But a year and a half after Crypto reached this ruby-red pocket of Republican retirees and libertarian lifelong workers, outrage over the mines reversed the local balance of power and forced the Commission. Officially Ask State and Federal Officials Its purpose is to “introduce and defend legislation in the United States Congress to ban and/or regulate cryptocurrency mining operations in the United States.”

Newly elected chairman Cal Stiles said, “Personally, I think other[North Carolina]counties will join if we can get legislation into the system.” said after the motion was readThe crowd cheered when he passed 5-0.

When asked about the move to outlaw his crypto mining, PrimeBlock co-owner Chandler Song said via a LinkedIn DM, “Oh, they wanted us so much a year ago. I was looking forward to it,” he replied. “It’s unconstitutional, to say the least.”

In 2019, Song and co-founder Ryan Fang Forbes list of 30 ‘big money’ under 30 It features young entrepreneurs who have raised $10 million or more. According to the profile, they founded his first blockchain company, ANKR Network, in 2017 when he was in his early 20s.

ANKR was eventually incorporated into its subsidiary, PrimeBlock, and claimed “$24.4 million in revenue and over 110 megawatts of installed data center capacity” in the final quarter of 2021. This is when Song and Fang teamed up with former Goldman Sachs investment banker Gaurav Budhrani to form a company with an “estimated enterprise value of $1.25 billion” in hopes of selling its public shares on the Nasdaq. It depends.

A cryptocurrency mine in a field along a country road in Murphy, North Carolina.

A few weeks after the announcement, residents flocked to a Cherokee County board meeting where company representatives were scheduled to attend, but management changed their minds after another cryptocurrency site experienced a power outage nearby. I learned that

“[The power outage]was investigated and it was determined that the power outage was caused by someone shooting one of the (service lines) with a gun,” County Commissioner Dan Eichenbaum groaned into the room. “As a result, the crypto mining folks decided not to come.” “They could have been on video!” After the company’s statement was read by a clerk, one resident complained to the board.

A few months later, Song told the Washington Post He said he had received no noise complaints from Cherokee County and would build a noise barrier and install a quieter water-based cooling system. Construction was halted and the community’s dashed hopes only fueled local anger heading into the election.

Aerial view of Murphy, North Carolina.

“I’m an old man. I’m an old man. Social media isn’t really on my mind,” Steins said, explaining how noise pollution turned her into an activist. She said, “I love being behind the scenes and I love serving the pie. But I knew I had to win the election.”

Chandler Song remained silent when presented with follow-up questions on LinkedIn, but a Cherokee County attorney voted anew against the constant noise without offending freedom-loving landowners. The mines of Hershaw Road are roaring as they seek ways to put legal teeth into the decreed laws.

TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler told CNN, “The Tennessee Valley Authority does not pursue cryptocurrency mining and that is not one of our target markets.” But he said federally-owned utilities that serve millions of people in seven states don’t track the mines that use TVA’s power, and who are served and who He acknowledged that it is up to local utilities, such as the Murphy Power Commission, to decide whether to cut power.

Ron Wright said the cryptocurrency mine remained online when power was cut off this winter.

That last eventuality brought even more bad blood and lost credibility. brutal winter storm It dominated much of the South, forcing some of the first rolling blackouts in TVA history. While the residents plunged into the cold darkness, they say, the power-hungry mine kept humming.

“They shut us down every 15-45 minutes to an hour on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,” resident Ron Wright told CNN. “Yeah, a power outage kills the heat pump and freezes the pipes. They’re cranking ahead of us.” Murphy Electric Power Board did not respond to a request for comment.

Back on Harshaw Road, Mike Lugiewicz pointed to the For Sale sign in front of his home. “When they turned it on, I think in September 2021, my wife and I shook our heads and said, ‘No, we’re getting out of here.'” Like Judy Steins until the hush returns.

“I don’t really care what people invest in,” Stines sighs. “I care about this noise that affects us every day, all day, all night. It never ends.”

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