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Despite bitcoin's price decline this year, a cryptocurrency "mining" company is moving ahead with plans to repurpose a 1,300 acre plot once used by Alcoa for aluminum smelting.
Coinmint said Tuesday it would invest up to $700 million in the upstate New York location, which it expects to be the biggest bitcoin mining center in the world. The project will create an estimated 150 jobs over the next 18 months.
After Alcoa shuttered its aluminum smelting operation there four years ago, the company was looking for a tenant. Following some back and forth and a few months of discussions, Coinmint said it signed a 10 year lease with options to renew.
Since they penned a deal, bitcoin prices have dropped about 30 percent and are down nearly 50 percent this year, according to data from CoinDesk.
"As long as bitcoin network exists we anticipate mining to be profitable," said Coinmint's Chief Technology Office Prieur Leary. "We've developed a process to get an edge in the market."
Part of that process was the move to Massena New York, just south of the Canadian border.
The town has access to clean and cheaper power alternatives like hydroelectric and wind. Leary pointed out that each computer used to "mine" generates 1400 watts — the same as one hairdryer. With hundreds of thousands of these hot machines operating at once, upstate New York's climate is ideal for reducing air-conditioning costs.
Cryptocurrency "mining" is essentially math done by high-powered computers. In order to trade bitcoin, transactions need to be verified through complex math equations, then and added to what's known as a "distributed ledger." In return for solving equations "miners" receive bitcoin.
Operations are already underway at the former Alcoa East Facility complex, and are projected to be at full capacity within a year. The 435 Megawatt mining center is expected to be the world's largest digital currency data processor, based on capacity, Coinmint said.
Most of Coinmint's competitors are overseas. Bitmain is the leader in the industry, and raked in record profits as bitcoin skyrocketed to almost $20,000 last year. The Chinese company likely made as much $3 billion to $4 billion in operating profit in 2017, as much as chipmaker Nvidia did last year, according to Bernstein analysts estimates.
Coinmint is looking to hire around-the-clock staff, and plans to tap the local community to hire staff from security personnel to electricians, to highly- trained IT staff.
"We in Massena, would like to welcome Coinmint to our town," Steve O'Shaughnessy, Massena Town Supervisor said in a statement Tuesday. "The thought of 150 jobs and revitalization of the Alcoa East Facility is exciting and what we have been working for. We are ready to provide any assistance we can to move this project to its full potential."