After being abandoned for over a year, Ponderay Newsprint Mill is opening its doors again, but this time, it will not be printing paper. Instead, the mill will be mining cryptocurrencies thanks to a new permit issued by local authorities.
Merkle Standard, a subsidiary of Allrise Capital Inc, has clinched the permit to convert the closed Ponderay Newsprint Mill into a cryptocurrency mining farm. The conditional permit will allow the conglomerate to operate mining activity with 30,000 servers on the nearly 1,000-acre site.
The mill closed its doors to the public in 2020 due to insolvency issues and although the site can be construed as residential, houses are only allowed on 5 acres. Located in Usk, Washington, the mill was purchased by Allrise Capital for $18.1 million and was the largest employer of labor in the county.
Christopher Anderson, the hearing examiner gave the go-ahead for the company to begin mining activities after consideration of the application. His verdict took into account the environmental, energy, and noise concerns regarding the move.
“Based on the findings and conclusions above, it is the decision of the Hearing Examiner to approve the proposed (conditional use permit) subject to the following revised conditions,” read the verdict.
The conditions include the reduction of noise from the mining farm to any level higher than 60 decibels between the hours of 7 a.m and 10 pm.” Anderson also added that during the nighttime, the decibels should not exceed 50 decibels. Furthermore, the conditions stipulate that waste materials should be disposed of in a manner approved by the Washington State Department of Ecology.
The resistance from neighbors
Neighbors of the mill have filed an appeal against the decision on several grounds. According to Ed Styskel, the hearing examiner did not allow documents from the opposing team but showed an affinity toward Merkle Standard. Styskel claims that Anderson accepted reports that were filed late, including a sound report.
“The county-responsible official is the last person who is the gatekeeper for the environment for Pend Oreille County,” said Styskel. “If they don’t dig a little bit to find more information, I feel that person is derelict of duty.”
The appeal was filed in accordance with the State Environmental Policy Act, with noise and electricity consumption rates as part of the reasons. The company has already asked for 600 megawatts from the Bonneville Power Administration and will require a waste discharge permit if it plans to dump cooling water into the river.
Mining activity in the US has reached frenetic levels since 2021 with firms closing deals and getting permits to begin operations.