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'An eyesore' | Commissioners try to figure out how a crypto mining operation was built without their knowledge

Claiborne County Planning commissioners say they were recently alerted to a seemingly 'low-profile' startup of a cryptocurrency mining facility.

CLAIBORNE COUNTY, Tenn. — Cryptocurrency is a somewhat controversial topic. Some say it's the future of money, while others say it's too volatile to invest in. 

In one East Tennessee town, people are worried it will be loud, among other things, disrupting peace and quiet. In Claiborne County neighbors to the new crypto mining site said they would've also liked a heads up before the startup popped up in their backyard.

The Claiborne County Planning Commission said it was alerted to a seemingly low-profile startup of a cryptocurrency mining facility after it was already well into its development process. It is located on several acres of pastureland near the southern edge of the county.

"Roughly a month ago I had some people call me and ask me what was going on in South Claiborne, specifically up on the hill," County Commissioner Whitt Shuford said. "I started asking questions where I was getting multiple answers. Nobody really seemed to know what was going on."

The arrival of a new bitcoin mining data center has lots of folks who live there up in arms. The county held a commission meeting Monday where county leaders invited a spokesperson from the Powell Valley Electric Cooperative to answer questions people had. This is the power company supplying the site’s energy. The spokesperson guaranteed the mining site would not cause people’s power rates to increase. 

"This development is a direct private nuisance to me in my home," neighbor Jason Laws said.

Laws, who lives 1600 yards straight across from the massive computer servers, said this is something that should've been discussed with the community first. 

He said he's done an extensive research to figure out what type of development was being built behind his Rock Harbor home.

"A blockchain-type computer program where computers mine to solve problems and they get paid through a virtual currency in the virtual world," Laws said.

Laws is one of several community members concerned about energy use, noise, and environmental impact. He's also concerned about property value - calling the site an "eyesore."

"Your actions tell you you knew this was going to upset people and you moved forward with it anyway," Laws said.

County leaders said they are trying to find answers to the community's questions.

"I don't really have enough information to give a pro or con at this point. I know I have done some research and there are positives and there are negatives, but an educated guess is all I would have on it at this particular time," Shuford said.

Laws said he's concerned the county doesn't know what it's facing if they allow the facility to stay.

"There may be officials that are not up to speed on with what crypto mining is and the impact on the environment, the impacts on the community and the impacts on the neighborhood," Laws said.

The facility's arrival has created a conundrum for the county and the people who live in the area.

"Probably too many dollars involved but you have to at least put up the fight," Laws said.

The County Planning Commission will discuss this again next Tuesday at the Claiborne County Courthouse.

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