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Remote mountain Kingdom of Bhutan is operating secret, state-owned Bitcoin mining facilities, report says

Polly Thompson   

Remote mountain Kingdom of Bhutan is operating secret, state-owned Bitcoin mining facilities, report says
  • Forbes said it had identified the sites of four secret, state-owned Bitcoin mining facilities in Bhutan.
  • The publication used satellite imagery to identify the sites.

The Kingdom of Bhutan has secretly developed a series of bitcoin mining facilities, a Forbes investigation has revealed.

Using satellite imagery from Planet Labs, Satellite Vu, and Google Earth, as well as sources with knowledge of Bhutan's crypto investments, the publication said it found the sites of what appear to be four crypto-mining facilities that have never been publicly disclosed.

The satellite images reveal long, rectangular mining units and data center cooling systems hidden amongst dense forests and mountainous terrain across the Himalayan country. Other images also show high-capacity power lines and transformers running from Bhutan's hydroelectric plants to the mining sites, Forbes reported.

One site was located near Dochula Pass, a sacred area that has 108 memorial shrines, while the others were identified in Trongsa, a mountainous town in the center of the country, Dagana in the south, and an area called "Education City," a failed $1 billion government project to revive the economy.

By tracking earth-moving and building construction, Forbes said that work at the sites likely began in 2020.

Bitcoin mining is an energy-intensive process that consumes around 91 terawatt-hours of electricity annually — more than many countries, and Bhutan's crypto-mining operations have seen the country's energy imports and usage soar in recent years. The kingdom, which has historically sold its surplus of hydropower to India, purchased $20.7 million worth of electricity in 2023.

Bhutan's monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, has long held a fascination with the cryptocurrency, and he hopes that it will help prevent the remote, bio-diverse mountain nation of less than 800,000 people from falling into an economic crisis.

Bhutan – which has been dubbed the "The Last Shangri-la" - suffered from declining tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, while it also faces rising youth unemployment and a brain drain triggered by surging rates of emigration.

El Salvador is currently the only country in the world known to run state-owned crypto mines.




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