Birtle residents raise concerns over proposed cryptocurrency mine

The town of Birtle, Man., has a tough decision to make in the coming months, as its council must decide whether to approve a new cryptocurrency mine proposed in the quiet community.

Skychain Technologies, a company based in Vancouver, has purchased two plots of land in town with the hopes of installing 12 containers in the area to hold computers to mine bitcoin. Birtle has a population of approximately 600 people and is located about 300 kilometres west of Winnipeg. 

“They say that probably five people will be hired, so for our area, that means possibly five new families with homes and purchasing abilities within our community,” said Reeve Linda Clark. 

Clark said the town council heard from a company representative last Tuesday about the project’s potential impacts.

Skychain Technologies purchased this plot of land in Birtle, Man., with the hopes of installing 12 containers on it to mine bitcoin. (Submitted by Roberta Hutchison)

She said the project could bring economic activity, new industry and tax benefits to the rural area, but several residents have concerns about noise pollution. 

“Birtle is a town situated in a valley and it’s serene and it’s beautiful. It has tourist development already and so we really need to weigh very carefully whether this is the right thing for the community,” Clark said. 

“Weighing the economics possibly against what it could do to the community,” said Clark. 

CBC contacted Skychain Technologies and the company declined to provide comment for this story. 

‘Loud fans humming 24-7,’ says resident 

Roberta Hutchison lives within a mile of the proposed site and has been in town for 16 years. Hutchison says she went to the public meeting last Tuesday, which had around 40 people in attendance, to raise her concerns. 

“It uses a lot of hydro,” she said. “These people want to generate bitcoins but it doesn’t benefit the community really in any way or doesn’t offer us a service.” 

CBC asked Manitoba Hydro how much electricity this project would use. In a statement, it says “each inquiry for capacity is site-specific and dependent on how much power is being requested.” 

“Any new business — crypto or otherwise — we work with customers to review their requirements and compare them with what capacity is available on the power line supplying the property and the substation,” the statement said. 

Hutchison says hydro poles were recently installed on the site, and she’s worried noise from the fans will scare away local wildlife and disrupt the peaceful environment. 

Hutchison lives within a mile of the site and she says these hydro poles were recently installed. (Submitted by Roberta Hutchison)

“Once it’s in here, I mean, that’s it. We’re screwed. You know, we’ll be sitting on our deck listening to these loud fans humming 24-7,” she said. 

Hutchison, who’s 72, said she’s also concerned the development will devalue her house, which she’s hoping to sell in a few years. 

“We’re getting older and it’s hard for me to manage the yard,” she said. “But who’s going to buy, who’s going to want to buy this house or all the houses within a mile of this operation with those fans running that awful noise?” 

Clark says the council is conducting research and studies about noise control must be done before a decision is made.

“This is all very initial,” she said. “We’re in the very early stages of any decisions.”