How the noise of a cryptocurrency miner woke up a Blue Ridge Mountain town

Murphy, North Carolina

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

But then she heard sound of cryptocurrency, a hype that neighbor Mike Logevich calls “a little jet that never leaves” and turns its contradictions into action. The racket was coming from piles and piles of computer servers and cooling fans, mysteriously set up in a few acres of open fields on Harshaw Road.

Once they fired up and the noise started bouncing around their Blue Ridge Mountain homes, the sound meters in Lugiewicz’s yard showed readings of 55-85 decibels depending on the weather, but even more disturbing than the sound was the fact that the noise never stopped.

Mike Logevich describes the noise from a nearby crypto miner as:

“There is a three-mile racetrack here,” said Logevich, gesturing away from the nearby cryptocurrency mine. “You can hear the cars running. It’s cool!” “But at least stop,” Staines exclaimed, “and you can go to bed!”

Cryptocurrency mining noise

This sound is in front of Mike Lugiewicz’s garage.

Source: CNN

Lee stirs axes and coal dust in this area, so at first, neighbors around Murphy, North Carolina, had no idea that mining so-called Proof-of-Work cryptocurrency was a lot like playing a computer game with a billion-sided dice. . Instead of scoops, modern miners need massive amounts of server power to spin the winning number faster than their competitors around the world.

This constant demand for electricity was one of the reasons China has banned cryptocurrency, which triggered a virtual gold rush from Appalachia to New York’s Finger Lakes. Cryptocurrency miners are beginning to place their stakes where energy is cheap and affordable, and where land use or noise regulations exist, enforcement is weak. The mine in Murphy is just one of 10 in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina owned by a San Francisco-based company called PrimeBlock, which recently announced $300 million in equity funding and plans to expand and go public.

But a year and a half after cryptocurrency hit this ruby ​​red enclave of Republican and libertarian retirees, anger over the mine has helped tip the local balance of power and forced a board of commissioners to formally ask state and federal officials “To introduce and endorse legislation through the US Congress that prohibits and/or regulates cryptocurrency mining operations in the United States of America.”

“I personally believe that if we can get a bill into the system, other (North Carolina) counties will join,” newly elected President Cal Styles He said after reading the proposal. When it passed 5-0, the crowd cheered.

“Boy, they wanted us so bad a year ago,” PrimeBlock co-owner Chandler Song answered when asked about the move to ban his crypto miner. “It is unconstitutional, to say the least.”

In 2019, he made Song and co-founder Ryan Fang Forbes “Big Money” 30 Under 30 List Which includes young entrepreneurs with more than $ 10 million in funding. According to the profile, they founded their first blockchain company, ANKR Network, in 2017 when they were in their early 20s.

ANKR eventually merged into umbrella company PrimeBlock and in the fourth quarter of 2021, they acquired “$24.4 million in revenue, over 110 megawatts of installed data center capacity.” It came as Song and Fang teamed up with former Goldman Sachs investment banker Gaurav Budhrani to create a company with an “estimated enterprise value of $1.25 billion” with hopes of selling public shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

A crypto miner located in a field along a country road in Murphy, North Carolina.

A few weeks after this announcement, residents crowd a Cherokee County Council meeting where company representatives were to attend, but soon learn that management has changed their minds after a power outage at another nearby cryptosite.

“When (the outage) was investigated, it was found that the outage occurred because someone had fired a gun at one of the (service lines),” Dan Eichenbaum, chair of the county commission, told The Room Groans. “As a result, people in the cryptocurrency mining business decided they wouldn’t come.” “They could have joined via video!” One resident told the board he was frustrated after an employee read the company’s statement explaining that they had canceled “for the safety of the employees”.

Months later, Song he told The Washington Post that he had received no noise complaints from Cherokee County, and said he would build noise-isolating walls and install quieter water-cooling systems. But after walls were erected on only two sides of the mine, construction work stalled and the community’s shattered hopes poured more fuel into local anger as they headed to the polls.

An aerial view of Murphy, North Carolina.

“I’m old. I’m old. Social media is not in my bag,” Staines said, explaining how noise pollution turned her into an activist. “I love being behind the scenes and I love serving pie. But I knew we needed to win the election.”

Chandler Song fell silent when I showed him follow-up questions on LinkedIn, but the mine on Hershaw Road roars as the Cherokee County Attorney searches for ways to put legal teeth into a newly passed law against the constant noise without alienating the freedom-loving landowners.

“The Tennessee Valley Authority does not pursue cryptocurrency mines and they are not one of our target markets,” TVA spokesperson Scott Fiedler told CNN. But he acknowledged that the federally owned utility that serves millions in seven states does not track mines using TVA power, and it is up to local utilities like the Murphy Electric Power Board to decide who gets service and who cuts out in the blackout.

Ron Wright said that when his electricity went out this winter, the cryptocurrency miner was still online.

This last case brought more bad blood and lost confidence during Brutal winter storm which gripped much of the South and forced some of the first blackouts in TVA history. As residents plunged into the cold darkness, they say the electricity-hungry mine kept buzzing.

“They lock us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day every hour for about 15 to 45 minutes to an hour,” resident Ron Wright told CNN. “Well, once your power goes down, your heat pumps explode and your pipes freeze. But less than a mile away from cryptocurrency, they’re allowed to run on the low end. Once the power comes back on, boom! They’re moving before we are.” Comment requests from the Murphy Electric Power Board have not been returned.

Back on Harshaw Road, Mike Logevich pointed out a for sale sign in front of his house. “September 2021, I think, is when they turned this on, and my wife and I just shook our heads, and we said, ‘No, we’re out of here.'” He hopes to stay in the area and continue fighting alongside neighbors like Judy Staines until calm returns.

“I don’t really care what people invest,” Staines said with a sigh. “I am concerned with this noise that affects us every day, all day, and all night. It never ends.”

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