Crypto mining operation revives dying coal plant in Montana

Hardin, Montana - Environmental concerns around cryptocurrencies are well-established, but you don't need to know much about the blockchain to understand why crypto miners resurrecting one of Montana's last coal-fired power plants is a bad thing.

Bitcoin mining ops pump pollution, not just profits.
Bitcoin mining ops pump pollution, not just profits.  © IMAGO / agefotostock

The cryptocurrency mining company Marathon set up shop on 20 acres of land next to the Hardin coal-fired power plant, according to The Guardian.

The plant was supposed to close in 2018 because it was losing money and had few customers.

After continuing to burn coal at fairly low rates – only 50 days in 2020 – Marathon rolled in with a deal to get power for its 30,000 mining rigs.

"They were struggling and looking to close. It was on the brink. And then this cryptocurrency company came along," said Montana Environmental Information Center co-director Anne Hedges.

Since Bitcoin is still worth $37,000 at the time of writing, Marathon is highly motivated to crank up the power plant and try to get that bread.

This led to a massive spike in greenhouse gas emissions from the Hardin plant in 2021, a full 5000% increase compared to before the mining operation started.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum rely on hefty tech to crunch numbers and mine new digital coins, and companies running crypto mining farms need a lot of electricity.

According to the New York Times, power-hungry mining units and the power needed to keep them from overheating snack on enough electricity each year to power countries, like Finland, or cover all of Washington state's electricity use.

As long as that electricity comes from polluting power plants like the one in Hardin, or a gas-fired plant in New York, then those crypto mining operations are still a major roadblock on the road to solving the climate crisis.

Cover photo: IMAGO / agefotostock (Stock)

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