CRYPTO MINE: Residents in Dewitt are calling on Gov. Sarah Sanders to act.
A proposed cryptocurrency mining operation in Arkansas County has upset residents, some of whom are asking Gov. Sarah Sanders to call a special legislative session to repeal a new state law that protects the industry.
A crypto mine is essentially a warehouse or other structure filled with computers running around the clock to generate digital currency for their owners. Understanding exactly how that works requires some knowledge of just how Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies function; here’s an explainer, but the pertinent thing to know is that keeping those computers running requires a large amount of power and can create noise pollution. Crypto mining can be quite lucrative, especially if an operation is set up in a place with relatively cheap land and electricity costs, such as Arkansas.
The Arkansas legislature passed a law in the waning days of the regular session this spring that limits the ability of local governments to regulate and restrict crypto mines. The bill’s text says it is intended “to protect the data asset miners from discriminatory industry specific regulations and taxes.” The law went into effect Aug. 1.
Meanwhile, a noisy Bitcoin mining facility near the community of Bono in northern Faulkner County has residents up in arms about the negative impact on their quality of life (and potentially their property values).
State Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest) is among those urging repeal of the new law. The bill was “wrongfully expedited and drew little attention,” he told the Arkansas Times. “The special interests that are making millions in cryptocurrency have exploited our legislative process. They must be held accountable,” he said.
King recently spoke to The New York Times for a story about Chinese-owned Bitcoin mining operations in the U.S., including at least three in Arkansas.
The proposed Arkansas County crypto mine would be located near DeWitt. Opponents have expressed concerns about the potential noise, as well as the stress it could place on the electrical grid and water resources in an area known for hunting and farming.
Kaley Jo Baker, general manager of the DeWitt Era-Enterprise, laid out the issue earlier this month:
Locals around the area within so many miles of the land that the mine is to be built on received a notice in the mail from a Law Office some weeks ago explaining the situation and the location of the build.
The biggest concern with the build of this facility is the noise, the power grid, the water supply, and the effect it will have on the wildlife in the area. Upon visiting other builds of the same types of facilities, many community members have concerning questions regarding the build. Some say the sound is like that of a jet engine. According to the builder, it is a facility that will house some 3,000 computers to run the facility. Though there is a sound ordinance for Arkansas County set at 65 decibels, some of the other facilities in Arkansas have sounds much higher.
Baker said some residents have turned down jobs worth thousands of dollars to build the facility.
A Facebook page called Say No to Crypto in ARCO has garnered about 1,700 friends and a petition is circulating to ask Sanders to call a special session to repeal the law, Act 851 of 2023. Some local governments, including Arkansas County and the city of Stuttgart, passed some regulations before the law went into effect on Aug. 1.
Still, Dewitt residents are upset. Here’s a sample of the concern voiced by community members in a report from KARK-TV this week:
“We are concerned about environmental issues, the water issue, the conservation with our wildlife, toxic, and the noise pollution,” community member Belvia Rodgers said. “Actually, the end goal at this point would be a called session by the governor to stop it.”
“This is just our home and this thing as it stands right now is still coming in and we are going to defend it,” Jackie Johnson said “Our legislators are not standing up for us, our governor sure isn’t and we aren’t going to let it down.”
The company believed to be establishing the crypto mine is called Jones Digital, according to KATV Channel 7. The company’s website says it is based in Atlanta; Jones Digital did not respond to a request for comment.
The Dewitt Era-Enterprise has a nearly two-hour video of a recent community meeting on the issue.