In particular, Virunga National Park, which has suffered numerous misfortunes over the years, leaving it in dire need of funding to protect its forests and wildlife, has recognized Bitcoin mining as an ideal opportunity, as reported by Adam Popescu in MIT Technology Review.
Implementation of the solution has taken place
The report indicates that Africa's oldest protected park and home to endangered mountain gorillas have been severely affected by years of militia violence and pillage, deforestation, pandemic lockdowns, diseases, and meager government assistance. However, a plan has been devised to utilize its hydroelectric power to mine Bitcoin in an effort to revitalize and revive the region.
Director of the park, Emmanuel de Merode, explained:
We built the power plant and figured we’d build the network gradually. (…) Then, we had to shut down tourism in 2018 because of kidnappings [by rebels]. Then, in 2019, we had to shut down tourism because of Ebola. And 2020—the rest is history with covid. For four years, all of our tourism revenue—it used to be 40% of park revenue—it collapsed. (…) It’s not something we expected, but we had to work out a solution.”
To accomplish this, De Merode and his colleagues decided to purchase $200,000 in Bitcoin rigs powered by the park's hydroelectricity. This was in order to maximize profits and use energy effectively.
The park purchased second-hand servers in early 2020 and began building the world's first Bitcoin mine run by a national park and powered by clean energy, with the help of crypto investor Sébastien Gouspillou.
One of the park's river-run hydroelectric plants opened in 2013 (with a fourth one being constructed) and has been providing power to the mine through the Luviro hydro station, one of the park's river-run hydroelectric plants. By using the river's constant flow instead of obstructing it with dams and reservoirs, the Bitcoin mining operation is conducted with a low environmental impact.
What are the chances of success?
No matter how much the price of Bitcoin fluctuates, De Merode is optimistic. He points out that each day of mining represents pure profit, regardless of fluctuations in the crypto sector, such as the collapse of the FTX.
Founder of the investment firm MicroStrategy, Michael Saylor, considers Virunga's model to be "the ideal high-tech industry for a nation with a great deal of clean energy, but without the capacity to export a product or provide a service."
According to Peter Wall, CEO of Argo Blockchain, which operates hydroelectric mines in Quebec, Virunga has all three factors necessary to mine bitcoin: "power, machines, and capital."
Lastly, De Merode stated that this was an "incredibly good investment for the park," as "we are not speculating on its value; we are producing it," adding that the park was "generating Bitcoin from surplus energy and monetizing something that would otherwise have no value."