Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has made history by becoming the world’s first national park to run a Bitcoin mine, according to a report by journalist Adam Popescu, published in MIT Technology Review.
The decision to incorporate cryptocurrency mining came as a solution to protect the park’s forests and wildlife and to generate revenue after struggling for years.
Tourism, which accounted for 40% of the park’s revenue, was impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic and Ebola outbreaks, causing a decline in visitors.
Sébastien Gouspillou, CEO of Big Block Green Services, recognized the opportunity for Virunga to turn to Bitcoin mining to generate income and presented the idea to the park’s director, Emmanuel De Merode.
In 2019, Gouspillou met with Merode and a Belgian prince and proposed the idea of using Bitcoin mining to monetize the park’s untapped natural resources.
By early 2020, the mining operation was set up, and the park’s first coins were mined in September. The park’s BTC mine runs on clean energy from one of its three hydro plants, staffed by nine full-time workers.
The facility has ten shipping containers, each with 250 to 500 mining rigs, with three containers owned by the park and seven by Gouspillou.
During the 2021 bull run, the park earned upwards of $150,000 a month, almost entirely offsetting lost tourist income. The Bitcoin mine is part of a larger plan to set up power-generating opportunities and connect local villages to electricity while mining more BTC. The park’s finance team manages the Bitcoin wallet and regularly sells the funds for park upkeep.
According to the report, the mine, powered by one of three hydro plants within the park, runs on clean energy and has hired nine full-time workers to operate the 250 to 500 rigs in 10 shipping containers, seven of which belong to Gouspillou.
Protecting Biodiversity Through Bitcoin Mining
Virunga’s Bitcoin mine provides a unique solution to preserving the park’s biodiversity while generating revenue. Unlike traditional Bitcoin mining, which is highly energy-intensive, Virunga’s mine operates on sustainable clean energy, making it environmentally friendly.
De Merode remains confident in the project despite the ongoing bear market and manages the risk of Bitcoin disappearance by regularly selling the mined coins to fund the park’s upkeep.
The project has faced skepticism from experts who question the connection between conservation and cryptocurrency. However, De Merode views the mine as a blockchain mining project, a more PR-friendly term, and a way to monetize surplus energy and preserve Virunga’s existence.
Nevertheless, Virunga National Park’s decision to run a Bitcoin mine serves as a shining example of how cryptocurrency can be used for good, preserving biodiversity and generating revenue in the process.
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