Chinese Bitcoin Mines in the US Attract National Security Attention

Chinese Bitcoin Mines in the US Attract National Security Attention

Bitcoin mining operations in the United States, owned by Chinese entities, are currently under investigation for potential issues that could threaten national security, according to the New York Times (NYT). 

The scrutiny began last year when a Chinese company began constructing a cryptocurrency mining facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming. 

National security experts at Microsoft raised these concerns and articulated them in a report from August 2022 submitted to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

One of the major concerns cited was the facility's proximity to a Microsoft data center serving the Pentagon. 

Furthermore, it was located just about a mile from an Air Force base overseeing nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

The team emphasized that the location could enable the Chinese to conduct comprehensive intelligence collection operations.

Beyond intelligence concerns, these mining facilities, comprising large warehouses or containers housing specialized computers, place significant pressure on the local power infrastructure.

Legal documents indicate that the Cheyenne mining operation is associated with five companies, all sharing the same office address on Park Avenue in Manhattan. 

One of these entities is registered in the Cayman Islands and, up until the previous year, was involved in the Chinese pork processing industry.

However, Li Jiaming, the president of Bit Origin Ltd., the former pork processor turned Bitcoin miner, refuted any claims of security threats. 

Jiaming asserted that the site was selected because they had secured an agreement with the local utility company to provide power rather than seeking proximity to the Microsoft data center or the missile base. 

He also emphasized the importance of a reliable power supply for the success of their business, saying, 

“Even though we are located near Microsoft, and a few miles from the base, without power, our operation wouldn't be viable.”

A Cause for Alarm

The NYT has identified Chinese-owned or operated Bitcoin mining operations across at least 12 states, including Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. 

Collectively, these mining facilities consume as much energy as 1.5 million households.

While some US mining operations appear to be straightforward ventures, the ownership of others remains obscure. Several of these operations can be traced back to the Chinese government.

In addition, after the ban on Bitcoin mining in China in May 2021 due to energy consumption and economic stability concerns, Bitmain boosted its equipment shipments to the United States.

Despite appearing unrelated to the Chinese government, import records reveal that certain shipments were sent to the US via a subsidiary at a site affiliated with the Communist Party in southern China. 

Furthermore, NYT indicated that the company's equipment shipments to the US in the past five years have increased fifteenfold. 

Chinese Bitcoin mines in the United States have raised serious national security concerns. The potential for foreign influence and control over these mining facilities poses a significant risk to the security and integrity of the cryptocurrency network. 

The environmental impact and competition for renewable energy sources are also pressing issues.

A recent publication from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has cautioned that China would likely contemplate engaging in assertive cyber actions in the event of an impending significant conflict with the United States. 

The report also noted that these actions would target critical infrastructure within the United States.

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