Expect more bitcoin mines like the one in Bonner to crop up around the state soon.

The Governor’s Office for Economic Development, the state’s business promotion arm, is marketing Montana as a destination for data center operators, including crypto mines, according to business magazine Inc.

Inc’s online story was posted Jan. 26, the morning after the Indy published a cover story about the track record of the operators behind Bonner bitcoin mine Project Spokane (see The Bitcoin Barons, Jan. 25), and asserted that the state is “eager to get in on the trend further” by promoting crypto mining. The information was attributed to chief business development officer Ken Fichtler.

But Bullock press secretary Marissa Perry quickly disputed the story, writing in an email to the Indy that Fichtler’s comments had been “misrepresented.”

“While the state ‘actively’ markets Montana as a place to do business, there are no specific efforts targeted at cryptocurrency mining businesses,” she wrote.
The Inc. story was later updated to clarify that the Office of Economic Development is recruiting data centers generally, including those that mine bitcoin.

Whether the governor’s office actually has been working with any mining companies remains unclear. Two Bullock spokespersons and Fichtler did not respond to follow-up requests made over the following three days for an interview on the subject.

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Bitcoin mining, the transaction verification process by which new bitcoins are produced, is a highly competitive, fast-changing industry dependent on expanding acceptance of cryptocurrencies. The process is noisy and extremely energy intensive—which is why cheap electricity in places like Washington and Montana is attractive to new businesses hoping to capitalize on the bitcoin craze.

Chelan County, Washington, has been flooded by requests to connect new mining operations to its ultra-cheap power grid, according to a Jan. 23 story by Yahoo! Finance, forcing the local power provider to weigh infrastructure upgrades required to become a mining epicenter with the risk of betting on the volatile new industry.

“We want to ensure our customers don’t get left holding the bag,” a spokesperson for the local public utility district told Yahoo!.

State officials may not need to do much to attract more crypto mines. The Bonner mine could soon be dwarfed in size by facilities now planned in Butte and Anaconda. News about those projects has trickled out since December, and the Montana Standard recently confirmed that the company Bit Power LLC had purchased land in a former Butte industrial park.

On Jan. 25, a Canadian company called Global Blockchain Technologies Corp. issued a press release unveiling its partnership with new mining facilities in Butte and Anaconda. Global Blockchain claims it will soon begin running Chinese mining machines purchased for $20 million in an “existing first-rate facility at a large scale of 100MW.”

Project Spokane, which until recently claimed to be the largest bitcoin mine on the continent, has a 20MW capacity, its owner, Sean Walsh, previously told the Indy.

Staff Reporter

Staff reporter Derek Brouwer joined the Indy in 2015 after year-long stints covering education at the Billings Gazette and the Helena Independent Record. He graduated from Montana State University. Follow him on Twitter: @derekwbrouwer.

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