What it takes to transform a defunct rural Washington newspaper mill into the world's center for cryptocurrency production.

There has been no newsprint produced by the California-based company that owns the Allrise Capital paper mill in Usk, Pend Oreille County, for nearly one year, despite a bankruptcy trustee telling a federal judge that Allrise Capital represented their best chance of getting their jobs back at the mill.

In place of rehiring the people and retooling the plant, venture investors want as much inexpensive power they can obtain for a different type of business idea.

A prominent Chinese tech firm, Bitmain, has joined with Allrise Hub and its CEO, Ruslan Zinurov, to transform the hamlet of around 1,200 people into what they believe would be the cryptocurrency mining capital of the nation.

Former plant manager Todd Behrend stated, "This is an American firm named Allrise that has formed a joint venture with a Chinese corporation, the greatest brand in bitcoin mining, and they are looking to invest in America." A "wonderful tale" about moving employment from China to the United States, says the author.

The Bonneville Power Administration has granted Allrise first clearance for 100 megawatts of power at the former Ponderay Newsprint plant. The Kalispel Tribe was outbid by Allrise by $18.1 million at a bankruptcy auction last year.

According to Behrend, the general manager of Zinurov's newly founded cryptocurrency mining business Merkle Standard, Allrise has applied for preliminary authorisation from the BPA for up to 600 megawatts. These megawatts sold by the government agency would mostly originate from hydroelectric plants in the region. '

A vacant control panel is seen at the Ponderay Newsprint site during a tour of the closed facility in December 2020 in Usk, Pend Oreille County
A vacant control panel is seen at the Ponderay Newsprint site during a tour of the closed facility in December 2020 in Usk, Pend Oreille County. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

According to Zinurov, the relationship with Bitmain would "catapult our development objective of developing one of North America's largest sustainable digital asset mining platforms" in the next months.

Tribal officials aren't opposed to the mining operation, but they'd like to know more about it, says Kalispel Tribe natural resources director Deane Osterman.

Crypto-mining is a mysterious enterprise to Osterman and the rest of his colleagues. "Who are these individuals? Do they have a plan in place for doing business? In such arena, "everything changes so quickly that it's difficult to keep up."

Over 90 shipping containers have already arrived, and more are being delivered on a regular basis. Behrend claims that they include Bitmain-designed circuits that are utilized in the mining of cryptocurrencies.

In the long run, the corporation wants to install 143 "modular-data centers" on the initial 100 megawatts of power. There will be 40 people hired to handle cryptocurrency mining instead of the mill's 140 employees, Behrend added.

Final approval of the power deal and Pend Oreille County's conditional use permit are still pending. A paper mill has operated on the 972-acre site for almost 30 years, although the area is officially classified as residential.

Hearing is postponed.

Pend Oreille County Commissioner John Gentle stated that the hearing examiner, who was travelling up from Spokane one day a week, has retired, which has caused a delay in the process.

Because it has been classified residential for the previous three decades, the plant's board confronts land-use issues, according to Gentle.

With more than 20 years of experience running a landscaping firm in Spokane, Gentle says Pend Oreille County is not lacking in ideas, but it lacks the funds to implement them.

In spite of the fact that "I'd love to get the jobs back, I don't know if it does the county any good" to push a firm "to limp along into something that doesn't pencil out," the county commissioner added.

Resolute Forest Products, a Canadian company, and five major U.S. newspaper publishers all purchased newsprint from the facility.

Three decades ago, Gentle recalled, "the factory has kind of buoyed up this county." "Only a few short years ago, paper was on its way out. "We were oblivious."

In spite of his knowledge of the blockchain, Gentle admitted to not knowing anything about mining for bitcoin. Kimberly Gentle, his wife, was employed by one of the world's largest bitcoin mining businesses just four months ago, but he didn't reveal it until an interviewer inquired.

Earlier this year, Kimberly Gentle was promoted to the position of vice president of energy and site development at Northern Data, a Frankfurt, Germany-based firm that sold one of the largest cryptocurrency mining operations in the United States, situated in Texas, for around $651 million last year.

Despite the fact that Northern Data does not have a contract with Allrise or Merkle Standard, the company has just opened an office in Newport and is actively recruiting new staff.

Kimberly Gentle was in Stanton, Nebraska, lobbying for a $20 million "cloud-based computing" center on 40 acres near a Nebraska Public Power District substation when Allrise submitted its conditional use permit to operate the former newsprint mill as a cryptocurrency mining operation in late November.

When asked about her work with Northern Data last week, Kimberly Gentle refused to respond.

The fact that John Gentle's wife works for a big bitcoin mining firm, according to the county commissioner, shouldn't matter. According to him, Allrise's permission request will be decided by the hearing examiner and not the county commissioners.

Clash of the clans

To turn Usk into a bitcoin destination, the need for power to do so is always shifting.

Pend Oreille County Public Utility District No. 1 initially approved Allrise's request for approval of around 300 megawatts.

Colin Willenbrock, the PUD's general manager, stated that the Bonneville Electricity Administration had to approve any more power because the PUD had already given an annual average of 85 megawatts to the previous plant.

In Willenbrock's words, Allrise "pivoted and said, 'Just tell us how much can we do if it's just crypto.'" before the BPA could deliver its ruling on the 300 megawatts, which could have powered both the plant and cryptocurrency mining.

He stated the BPA's answer was 100 megawatts.

The PUD has been re-evaluating the deal to ensure that all of its other customers, both residential and commercial, are not adversely affected by entering into a large power agreement with one firm, he added.

The Chelan County PUD's general manager, Steve Wright, recently stepped down at the age of 64. Mr. BPA's previous position as chief executive officer lasted a total of 12 years.

Allrise's proposed 600 megawatts of power "is a big quantity of electricity," Wright said.

A spokesman for Kaiser Aluminum Mead said that the 600 megawatts of available electricity could run two smelters at full capacity.

According to him, "It would be the greatest industrial loads in Northwest, and the largest industrial loads since aluminum manufacturing departed the Northwest." "

Are you aware of Allrise Capital?

Zinurov, the CEO of Allrise Capital, was born in Russia before moving to the United States, according to Behrend.

Following graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Zinurov earned an MBA in finance from the University of California, Berkeley, according to LinkedIn. According to his web biography, he worked in Silicon Valley with Barclay's Investment Banking before becoming CEO of Allrise.

Vladimir Evseev launched Allrise Financial Group in 2016 before rebranding the company in 2019.

According to reports, Zinurov acquired the Chernomorets soccer stadium and residence in Odessa, Ukraine, in 2020. Between $5 million and $7.29 million, he is said to have paid for a building that had previously been valued at around $40 million.

The stadium and paper mill, according to former plant manager Behrend, are two examples of facilities that Allrise is interested in purchasing.

To put it another way, Allrise seeks for troubled assets that it believes it can stabilize and turn around, he added. They either keep or sell them. Every one of these things is done to some extent.

An arrangement between a California billionaire and a Chinese-based technology company to acquire the old Ponderay Newsprint does not involve Gentle, the county commissioner.

Bitcoin and digital currency in general are not well understood, Gentle added. As far as I'm concerned, the lines of communication have been well kept. I think they've done a good job of being open and honest.

"It's out of my headlights until they give me a reason not to trust them," he continued.

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