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Houston may host bitcoin farm

Plans underway for cryptocurrency facility
A cryptocurrency facility proposed by MiningSky Technologies Inc. would be located at the former site of Houston Forest Products on Morice River Road. (District of Houston image)

Houston may soon be home to a new mine, but no minerals will be extracted from this operation. The proposed facility would generate cryptocurrency using shipping containers filled with computers.

In late March, MiningSky Technologies Inc., a company with offices in Vancouver and Los Angeles, applied for permission from the District of Houston to locate as many as 10 shipping containers on an industrial lot in the district.

Those containers would house data-processing and storage servers, according to a land use application obtained by Houston Today.

The company plans to set up a “computer server farm for cryptocurrency mining,” according to the document, adding that the computers will be set up in “sea cans” — a reference to shipping containers.

The area is zoned as heavy industrial land and designated as “light/heavy industrial” in the official community plan. The only problem with the proposed land use, according to a report by district staff to council, is that current bylaws only permit two shipping containers to be used as “accessory buildings for storage.”

The company says that shipping containers are a good alternative to ordinary buildings. “It is quicker to use sea cans, rather than to build buildings,” the application states. “We would like to increase our sea can amount from two to 10 within six months.”

The document also indicates that the facility will consume 10 megawatts of power and that employees will be present to monitor and maintain operation.

The matter came up during the April 3 district council meeting, when council resolved to inform owners and tenants living with 100 metres of the lot about the permit application — a necessary step before council can approve the request.

The proposed facility would be located at the former site of Houston Forest Products, according to District of Houston corporate officer Jessica Bagnall. The mill, which was located on Morice River Road, shut its doors in 2014.

MiningSky, which has offices in Vancouver and Los Angeles, describes itself as offering “a full-service solution to crypto mining.” The company sells “mining rigs” — computer systems meant for mining bitcoins — and it provides services that include “mining farm construction and miner hosting,” according to its website.

A MiningSky official declined to comment for this story, saying the company would discuss its plans with Houston Today within the next two weeks.

Cryptocurrency — digital money that can be exchanged for goods and services online or for hard cash but isn’t linked to any physical resource or central authority — has risen dramatically in popularity over the past few years.

Bitcoin — the most well-known form of cryptocurrency — was created in 2009 and currently trades at more than $8,750 per unit, down from a peak of more than $20,000 in December.