Canadian Ghost Town Eyes Revival Through Bitcoin Mining

Sep 12, 2018 at 21:31

From paper industry to Bitcoin mining industry, Canada’s Ocean Falls has piqued the interest of a Vancouver-based businessman to transform the sleepy town’s old paper mill into a data center.

But with Bitcoin prices dropping, the bitcoin miner is looking at other related business to the Bitcoin mining facility.

Four decades earlier, Ocean Falls had a booming paper industry until it fell silent when the paper mill up and left in the 1980s.

From a peak of 5,000 inhabitants, Ocean Falls has turned into a sleepy town with around 100 in population with just an operational dam powering nearby towns.

Fast forward to the present day, the paper mill is now working again—but this time as a bitcoin mining facility.

This was thanks to Kevin Day, a 40-year old businessman, who approached Brent Case, the British Columbia operations manager of Boralex, a private utility that owns and operates the town’s dam.

Kevin Day has spent 2 1/2 years building a bitcoin-centered data center in an old paper mill. Photographer: Jackie Dives for Bloomberg. Source

It was a bit unusual that a Bitcoin mining firm would put up a data center in Ocean Falls, which is remotely located—tucked away in the mountains surrounded by pine trees, 300 miles up the coast from Vancouver. It is accessible only by boat or seaplane, a nightmare for some industries despite the availability of cheap power.

But nevertheless, this was good news to Boralex as it would be able to sell excess power to the Bitcoin miner.

It took two and a half years to transform a single floor of the paper mill into a data center called Ocean Falls Blockchain in July.

Around that time, the Bitcoin price was only hovering around $7,000, a steep drop from the nearly $20,000-level it reached in December last year.

Even as Ocean Falls Blockchain faces headwinds, the townspeople is quite thankful to Ocean Falls Blockchain for bringing life into the town.

But apart from the mining facility, Ocean Falls Blockchain is looking at other related businesses.

The company is reportedly experimenting on a method that would cool computers by submerging them in non-conductive liquid. Currently, the computers are kept cool through hundreds of tiny fans blowing air past them.

It is also looking at using the heat generated by computers to warm the water tanks of the town’s salmon hatchery, its most substantial business.

If successful, these could be sold to other Bitcoin miners.