Bitcoin mining in Navajo land yields jobs, revenues while revealing economic disparity – Yahoo Finance

Tiffany Nelson knew little about cryptocurrency when she first happened upon a temporary labor job in 2019. A Canada-based company called Westblock was recruiting “labor hands,” in Nelson’s words, to help unload boxes in a data center facility on land belonging to the Navajo Nation.
A Navajo living on tribe land, Nelson considered the job rare for its proximity to her home. With a total tribe population of 400,000 people, only about 170,000 live on the reservation. That’s most often attributed to poor economic conditions and scarce employment opportunities, especially for women.
While grateful for the opportunity, Nelson’s employer didn’t initially tell her what the company’s business on the New Mexico reservation was.
Another Navajo woman, Kennette Phillips, who was hired around the same time, recalled similar misgivings surrounding the mysterious business of her employer.
As security guards kept watch over the site, Phillips, Nelson and another employee unloaded boxes and then began setting up the machines inside.
“When we opened the boxes, we found these machines that looked like toasters,” Phillips recalled. “We weren’t told what they were for. It seemed a little sketchy… we didn’t know if what we were doing was legal.”
Part of their growing concern was spurred by the crisis-level rates indigenous women have been kidnapped or murdered across Canada and the U.S. 
When the two women, both single mothers, finally asked their employer what the site would be used for, they discovered with much relief, the company intended to use the toaster-like machines to mine bitcoin.
Bitcoin mining is the computationally-heavy process of computers validating bitcoin’s network of transactions. While the cryptocurrency’s supply is limited at 21 million coins, it distributes a small sliver of that supply to miners for contributing computer power, thereby securing the network.
The work can be lucrative, especially as the price has more than tripled over the last year. Mining bitcoin requires specialized computers, the infrastructure to house them, plus a robust and stable power supply.
“Oh, wow. Okay,” Nelson remembered thinking with relief. She didn’t claim to understand the full extent of how bitcoin worked back then, but she knew it was a cryptocurrency, “like internet money.”
Three years later, Nelson and Phillips manage operations for the site full-time. In addition to two other full-time managers who together keep the operation running day and night, the facility also employs four to six security guards to protect their expensive mining equipment, which is valued in the tens of millions of dollars, according to WestBlock’s CEO Ken MacLean.
Like many other bitcoin mining operations, this project benefits from tapping into energy that otherwise went unused. After the shutdown of a nearby coal-fired power plant, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), a tribe-owned nonprofit, possessed an extra 15-megawatt load of electricity for which they were eating the cost.
According to WestBlock’s MacLean, the power the operation draws from NTUA comes from a mix of solar, hydroelectric, nuclear power and natural gas, with 60% of it attributed to renewable energy. The situation reflects the Navajo Nation’s broader and economically difficult energy transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources over the last decade.
Historically, the bulk of the tribe’s revenues have come from leasing land to extractive energy companies, with leases for oil and gas mining operations accounting for 51% of the tribe’s total income as far back as 2003.
Critics of bitcoin mining’s high energy consumption are quick to point out that bitcoin now accounts for 1% of the planet’s energy consumption. While direct comparison can be tricky, the computational power directed toward securing bitcoin consumes more power than all the refrigerators in the U.S. but less than the total energy used to produce paper and pulp worldwide, according to the University of Cambridge’s Center for Alternative Finance
Additionally, WestBlock’s bitcoin mining project currently uses 7 megawatts of the NTUA’s power with plans to eventually use all 15 megawatts in the near future. Relative to other regions within the Navajo Nation, the project’s energy consumption suggests some economic disparity.
A three-hour drive west from the site, in the Nation’s Black Mesa region, many residents live without electricity and running water.
But the effort of transferring power from one part of the nation to another is not so simple, according to Carl Slater, a delegate with the Navajo Nation’s Tribal Council. Roughly the size of West Virginia, the Navajo Nation is the largest independent authority of land within the U.S. and its power grid isn't connected evenly dispersed or connected throughout its 17 million square acres.
Surprised, to say the least, when he first heard a developer was mining bitcoin on Navajo land, Slater told Yahoo Finance the opportunity could be an economic boon for the nation, if the revenues paid to its utility can end up serving the nation's residents.
“The utility that the nation owns would have just had to eat the cost of that power. To make use of it in a way that generates revenue back to the nation is good, but I think there’s a shared responsibility between the nation, utility and developer to figure out a process whereby more of the revenue can be directed to our local communities,” said Slater.
Andrew Curley, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Arizona, said the Nation’s move to bitcoin mining is just the latest iteration of their long-standing need to diversify its economy.
“The tribal leaders are trying to make the reservation a place where companies, outside of those in extractive industries, can do business and hire people,” said Curley, a Navajo Nation member himself, who lives off the reservation.
A sociologist by training whose research focuses on the Navajo Nation's energy transition, Curley called the bitcoin mining project an “interesting prospect” but also acknowledged that the Nation's energy disparity is relative to different local communities. While some communities remain without power, he said the utility companies bare the brunt of the responsibility, explaining that overall, the Navajo Nation “by far under-consumes the amount of energy it produces.” 
When thinking of other economically struggling nations that have or are considering adopting cryptocurrency more broadly, such as El Salvador, Curley is quick to point out the obvious problem with making cryptocurrency play a larger rule in the Nation's economy.
“There is an innate problem and challenge when asking poorer people to take riskier transfers of technology,” said Curly.
Though WestBlock’s mining operation opened in 2020, this year marks the first time the project has gained a material profit. On the other hand, the tribal utility NTUA has yet to disclose its total revenue from the effort, but should in early 2022. In addition to monthly revenues for internet and electricity paid to the NTUA, WestBlock also pays taxes, rent for its land lease in addition to scholarships set aside for the local community.
A person familiar with the Navajo-based operation said the revenue generated from the project this year is “in the millions," and that WestBlock is working with NTUA along with other tribal chapters to find other sites on the land, which might be used for bitcoin mining.
“I’m just happy to have a job close to home, especially since so many people lost their jobs during the pandemic,” Tiffany Nelson added. “It's been a good ride and something that I’m proud to be a part of.”
David Hollerith covers cryptocurrency for Yahoo Finance. Follow him @dshollers.
Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance
Read the latest cryptocurrency and bitcoin news from Yahoo Finance
Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Flipboard, and LinkedIn
Because in the globally active air transport sector, regulations that unilaterally burden domestic companies are of no use to the environment. The coalition agreement sets an important course for future technologies in air transport. This is a real contribution to climate protection.
Plug Power, a maker of hydrogen fuel cells, gets a price target boost from Morgan Stanley. Is PLUG stock a buy right now?
When “nuclear energy” is discussed, it’s almost always in reference to nuclear fission, which generates energy by splitting atoms—and is the source of power for nuclear weapons and all of the nuclear generators in operation today. Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, occurs when two positively charged nuclei merge. It’s the same kind of reaction that powers our sun—sparked by the star’s massive size, heat and gravitational fields.
The so-called 'Eco-Towers' will also enable the deployment of new mobile sites in the most remote locations, without the major challenge and cost of connecting to the electricity grid.
Renewable energy stocks have had a wild year, jumping early in the year as the market pushed the entire sector higher. Three of our contributors highlighted the renewable energy stocks they're thankful for and SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR), Enphase Energy (NASDAQ: ENPH), and Lucid Group (NASDAQ: LCID) topped the list. Travis Hoium (SunPower): The last few years have been a wild ride for SunPower.
(Bloomberg) — China’s biggest grid company will create a forum that’ll allow for widespread power trading across provinces, part of the government’s efforts to smooth out supply and enhance the availability of clean energy. Most Read from BloombergBillionaire Family Feud Puts a Century-Old Business Empire in JeopardyAsia’s Richest Man Looks to Walton Family Playbook on SuccessionThe 24-Year-Old Aiming to Dethrone Victoria’s SecretThe Winners and Losers From a Year of Ranking Covid ResilienceAn
Increasing demand for clean energy globally could push the price of KLNE ETF to new highs over the coming weeks and months.
Save Right Whales Coalition seeks a moratorium on all wind projects "until further scientific research can be conducted" on impact on right whales.
In line with its strategic plan and following its entry into Poland’s renewable energy market, Nofar Energy (NOFR) today announced a second significant deal in Poland. Nofar reported it had purchas…
Lacuna's service helps cities tap into the data collected by new-age transportation providers and set rules for how such companies use its streets and parking spaces.
Today, Hydro One announced it has opened applications for communities and organizations to apply to its Energizing Life Community Fund. The fund will provide $25,000 in support to each selected Indigenous community, charitable organization and municipality to build safe communities and meet local needs. With the lasting impacts of the pandemic still unfolding, the fund will help organizations to meet rising community demand and introduce new initiatives that promote physical, psychological and e
Hamilton advocates for Duke Energy about the benefits of EVs, electrification and sustainability
The White House is set to create a new division of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) that will develop federal climate change policy.The Biden administration will appoint Sally Benson, a professor of energy engineering at Stanford University, to head the newly created division, according to The Washington Post, which was the first to report the news. The Hill has confirmed the creation of the division.In an announcement…
“This is about economic development as much as it is about saving our planet.”
The Interior Department on Wednesday announced its approval of the second offshore wind project in federal waters off the coast of Rhode Island.The South Fork wind project marks the second commercial-scale offshore project approved by Interior. It will be sited some 19 miles off Block Island and generate about 130 megawatts of wind power, according to the department. The first such project located off the shore of Massachusetts, broke ground…
Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: we're looking at a new division of the Office of Science & Technology Policy with a climate focus, another Exxon lobbyist recording and the energy issue the Beto O'Rourke campaign thinks will help make him governor.Programming note: We won't be publishing…
France's financial sector regulator said on Thursday that crypto exchange Binance must focus on its anti-money laundering compliance if it wants regulatory backing to set up a possible regional hub in Paris. Regulators across the world have in recent months scrutinised Binance, the world's largest exchange by trading volumes. The company has acknowledged that its currently decentralised structure has been frowned on by regulators and it aims to set up regional hubs.
The U.S. Federal Reserve will likely double the pace of tapering its monthly bond purchases from January to $30 billion, and wind down its pandemic-era bond buying scheme by mid-March, Goldman Sachs strategists said in a daily note on Thursday. "The increased openness to accelerating the taper pace likely reflects both somewhat higher-than-expected inflation over the last two months and greater comfort among Fed officials that a faster pace would not shock financial markets," analysts led by Jan Hatzius said in a client note. Despite the accelerated tapering calendar, Goldman expects the Fed to start raising interest rates only from June for a total of three times in 2022.
China will release crude oil from its reserves according to its needs, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday, adding that the country was in close communication with oil-producing and oil-consuming countries. The United States said on Tuesday that it will release millions of barrels of oil from strategic reserves in coordination with China and other Asian nations to try to cool prices after OPEC+ producers repeatedly ignored calls for more crude output. China's National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration confirmed to Reuters last week that it was working on a release of oil stocks but declined to comment on the U.S. request.
The two private-equity firms have held exploratory talks about the potential for a joint offer, the report added, quoting people asking not to be identified as the talks are private. CVC Capital declined to comment. KKR and Telecom Italia did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2021 The Adventures of Xun Lei - Proudly powered by theme Octo