Former Ponderay Newsprint mill reopens as cryptocurrency mining operation

USK, Wash. – The old Ponderay Newsprint Company is now home to thousands of cryptocurrency mines. 

Merkle Standard says it wants to make money for the region and bring back industry jobs using Washington’s hydroelectric energy. 

The once-booming paper mill turned on the lights once again in January. 

“Specifically this year, for the first two months in January and February of 2022, we’ve paid over $292,000 in taxes that’ll go directly to Pend Oreille County,” said Chief Operating Officer Monty Stahl. 

The machine that converted pulp to paper provided jobs for so many in Usk, like former engineer and now-general manager Todd Behrend. 

Next to it are over 2,000 cryptocurrency mines. They are small, but a more powerful processor than you would find on your computer. 

These hold the equivalent of a digital ledger and algorithms. 

“That algorithm then determines what coin you’re mining and you point it to that communication with the internet to a wallet,” Behrend said. 

The two cryptocurrencies mined at the facility are Bitcoin and Ethereum. The machines generate revenue, but also give off energy that Merkle Standard says will be used to warm up the building. 

While Stahl says Merkle Standard is promising a carbon neutral footprint by the end of the year, neighbors in the area are concerned about the heat and environmental impacts that could be generated from all the power. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the crypto boom poses a big problem given the world’s tight timeline to reach net-zero emissions. 

Crypto has a massive carbon footprint that stems from the extreme computer power needed to carry out the buying and selling of crypto coins. 

A petition started by neighbors demands a study be done to look at Merkle Standard’s operation’s impact on the environment.