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New Hope For Texas City's Bitmine

The Alcoa power plant and smelter outside Rockdale Texas was supposed to be the site of the largest bitmining operation in the country.
Paul Flahive
Texas Public Radio
The Alcoa power plant and smelter outside Rockdale Texas was supposed to be the site of the largest bitmining operation in the country.

After grabbing headlines last August by announcing it would build the country’s largest bitcoin mine in Rockdale, Texas, the Chinese cryptocurrency company, Bitmain, suspended operations six months later and let go of most of its staff.

In that six-month period the price of Bitcoin, the virtual currency that is one of the company’s chief commodities, had plummeted by more than half. Bitmain reportedly shed staff globally and shut down a facility in Israel.

Bitcoin are created by slow, computer-intensive processes known as mining.

But now there may be another reversal in Rockdale’s hopes to become a cryptocurrency player. Milam County officials said the company will continue the project.

"You know, the good news about this whole deal is they have made the decision, a corporate decision, to go forward with this project,” said Steve Young, Milam County Judge. “There are others they will not go forward with, but this is one they are going to do."

Young met with three senior level Bitmain executives last week, and he said now he's confident the project will proceed.

In a statement a spokesman for Bitmain elaborated:

“Earlier this year and due on market conditions, we had to make temporary adjustments to our staff and operations. We had to slow down, but on we are back on track to ramp-up at a smaller pace and scale."

Young announced the project's troubles last month, describing it as a blow to the community’s hopes to develop a technology industry.According to Young, Bitmain finished renovating parts of the Alcoa smelter they had leased and will begin installing 180,000 Antminers, specially-built computers that mine bitcoin. Young said the company will hire 10 to 12 people soon to assist in that.

“They’re hoping to have those computers actually mining by sometime mid-summer this year,” said Young.

According to a Bitmain spokesman the first 13,000 will arrive in July. 

No Bitmain positions have been posted on the Texas Workforce Commission's website, which the company partnered with in the past.

When the company announced the deal last August, it said it would invest $500 million and create 400 jobs. 

Milam County had originally proposed a 10-year, 80-percent tax break, but the paperwork was never signed, Young said, and the future of any deal is unclear.


This story was updated 3.4.19 to reflect comments from a Bitmain spokesperson.

Paul Flahive can be reached via email or on Twitter @paulflahive.

Copyright 2020 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit .

Paul Flahive is the accountability reporter for Texas Public Radio. He has worked in public media across the country, from Iowa City and Chicago to Anchorage and San Antonio.