The Congo in Africa has set up its first official bitcoin mining facility. The clincher? It runs entirely on clean energy and seeks to avoid the often atmosphere-polluting methods utilized by former and present enterprises.
Mining in the Congo Has Become Possible
The mining company has been set up in what’s known as Virunga National Park, which is often used to house endangered mountain gorillas. While these great apes are indeed still prominent in the area, it appears they will now have to share their home with crypto mining rigs, and for a very noble reason.
The man in charge of the park is 52-year-old Emmanuel de Merode. He is now tasked with overseeing the bitcoin mining facility’s operations, which are presently conducted in a 40-foot container by a small group of men dressed only in mesh vests and sporting a few machine guns to keep themselves safe in what is considered one of the most dangerous areas of the region.
The danger stems from government corruption, poaching, and rising deforestation. Foreign investments in the area are extremely rare due to the hostility and instability of the present administration. The isolation and harsh climate conditions also make it very difficult to host any sort of internet connection. Lastly, the park is largely left to fend for itself given the Congolese government refuses to devote more than one percent of its budgetary funds towards keeping the area in good shape.
This is where bitcoin comes in. The mining facility is using hydropower to present benefits to both locals of the park and to the land itself. For every bitcoin that’s mined and sold, part of the proceeds goes to infrastructure projects like rebuilding roads and water pumping stations.
In an interview, de Merode says this is the perfect way to sustain an economy that’s inherently tied to park resources. He commented:
We built the power plant and figured we’d build the network gradually. Then, we had to shut down tourism in 2018 because of kidnappings [by rebels]. Then in 2019, we had to shut down tourism because of Ebola, and 2020, the rest is history with COVID. For four years, all our tourism revenue – it used to be 40 percent of park revenue – it collapsed. It’s not something we expected, but we had to work out a solution. Otherwise, we would have gone bust as a national park.
He considers the crypto mine to be something of a “happy accident.” It first became operational in September of 2020 and has provided a solid revenue stream for the park to remain stable.
For the Greater Good?
De Merode concluded with:
Hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of people suffer what we hope is a short-term cost to turn this park into a positive asset.