There is a new Gold Rush 2.0 currently underway across the world, and prospectors have their eyes set on Winnipeg City in Manitoba, Canada.
In 1848 through 1849, the news of gold quickly spread around. People from Hawaii and Latin America were the first to hear the breaking news. Next came the rest of the U.S., Europe, Australia, and China in 1849, as the peak rush was seen in 1852, after gold reserves became harder to mine. The buzz around bitcoin is similar, although information dissemination is now much quicker and as the euphoria of bitcoin mining spreads across the globe, many cryptocurrency players have started their descent onto Manitoba in search of cheap power for their digital mining operations.
The gold rush ushered in the development of California in the 1850s and ultimately it became a state. Roads, churches, schools, and entire towns were built, to house the gold miners who sought nothing more than to extract the yellow metal from the foothills. A similar fate may await one Canadian city.
CBC News has learned that international investors have had interviews with “commercial real estate companies, economic development organizations, cryptocurrency industry players and Manitoba Hydro,” who view the area as a “top-tier location” to open up a mining shop. CentrePort Canada, North America’s largest inland port, offers 20,000 acres of cheap commercial land in Winnipeg, says early interest from Asian investors and South American companies who want to mine cryptocurrencies is currently underway. CentrePort president and CEO Diane Gray said, “we’ve had inquiries from very large non-Asian companies, some of which have roots in North America and are looking to expand significantly.”
“They’re having site visits and meetings with Manitoba Hydro and whomever else they feel are relevant to their decision-making process. So I would say strong interest, but still speculative.”
Is the next bitcoin boom area in Manitoba?
The environmental downside in mining cryptocurrencies is that it requires a tremendous amount of energy (See: Each Bitcoin Transaction Uses As Much Energy As Your House In A Week). CBC explains why a bitcoin transaction consumes a lot of energy, furthermore highlights North America’s cheapest cities for electricity costs in 2017. Here, Winnipeg City in Manitoba, Canada ranks number one, while Toronto ranks last. New York is not too far behind Toronto, ranked number 19.
In lieu of a central banking authority controlling transactions involving cryptocurrencies, a public digital ledger controlled by a network of users records every virtual-currency transaction.
However, this record-keeping process requires computers around the globe to solve complex mathematical problems and then verify the output. When this is complete, the transaction and the solved equation is added to what is called a “blockchain” as a permanent record.
People who purchase these specialized math-solving computers around the world don’t do it for free. Their reward is payment through the creation and issuance of new bitcoin. They become, essentially, tech-era gold miners — hence the term “bitcoin miners.”
Interesting facts about Bitcoin mining and electricity consumption:
- In the past month alone, Bitcoin mining electricity consumption is estimated to have increased by 29.98%
- If it keeps increasing at this rate, Bitcoin mining will consume all the world’s electricity by February 2020.
- Estimated annualized global mining revenues: $7.2 billion USD (£5.4 billion)
- Estimated global mining costs: $1.5 billion USD (£1.1 billion)
- Number of Americans who could be powered by bitcoin mining: 2.4 million (more than the population of Houston)
- Number of Britons who could be powered by bitcoin mining: 6.1 million (more than the population of Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Bradford, Liverpool, Bristol, Croydon, Coventry, Leicester & Nottingham combined) Or Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
- Bitcoin Mining consumes more electricity than 12 US states (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming)
Growth of Bitcoin Mining Electricity Consumption is set to explode.
In this context it's easy to figure out why bitcoin miners have Manitoba, and Winnipeg, in their crosshairs: the area hosts cheap energy through hydroelectricity, along with the “lowest average annual temperatures of major North American cities”— just perfect for cooling computers with cheap energy. Ryan Behie, vice-president and managing director for CBRE Winnipeg says, more than a dozen groups are looking at commercial properties in the area for setting up bitcoin mining operations.
“The issue is that this commands a tremendous amount of power, so much so that in my discussions with [Manitoba] Hydro about what they can offer in terms of power at any particular locations in the city of Winnipeg, there are few, frankly, if any sites that work.”
Bob Antymniuk, senior director of sales and leasing with Capital Real Estate, says his team of experts have canvased areas in Manitoba, and Winnipeg, but “there’s not many of those types of buildings that have the types of power requirements that these guys want.” Antymniuk indicates the infrastructure in Manitoba, and Winnipeg is severely lacking the requirements for bitcoin operations, but we must add, this is the perfect time to enter before the rush starts.
On the other hand, Manitoba Hydro officials aren’t convinced bitcoin mining operations in the region need the extra power upgrades—yet. Officials are unsure if cryptocurrencies are in a bubble, and actions by the power company today could be premature. “The key difference lately has been the magnitude of the requests to establish dedicated bitcoin and cryptocurrency farms,” said Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen.
“To put the potential consumption into perspective, the cryptocurrency requests coming into Manitoba Hydro recently are for the equivalent electric consumption of about 1,900 average Manitoba homes.” One local cryptocurrency insider says, there are more than 20 mining operations of different sizes throughout the area. It’s hard to put an exact figure on the number because many want to remain anonymous.
Nick Burley, chief operating officer of Fiber Hosting, a Winnipeg web hosting company said, “if it ends up turning into a situation where it does become concrete for the long term, we will risk giving up our early lead in the industry to other players around the world, which will unfortunately [mean losing] out on job opportunities for Manitobans in high-tech jobs.”
According to CBC, Burley, himself a bitcoin miner, estimates about 100 skilled miners are employed in the province, and many more are coming with an infrastructure that is in need of an upgrade. “If it is seen that Manitoba is too slow to react to the demand, then it could be a situation where we lose competitiveness in that space.”
Nevertheless, Manitoba, and Winnipeg could be in the beginning stages of a new gold rush, however this time the expansion is north and it’s digital, as the hunt for cheap energy and cold climate is top on every bitcoin miner’s mind.