Cryptocurrency began as a theoretical concept in the mid-1980s, promising an untraceable digital currency that was un-hackable and beyond the reach of governments and financial regulations. Cryptographers, mathematicians, and programmers then made it a reality with the launch of Bitcoin in 2009. This spawned the creation of hundreds or even thousands of other coins and tokens.
Mining is the process of creating cryptocurrency, but not in the traditional sense. It does not involve digging. Instead, computers are used to continuously carry out complex mathematical calculations to validate the chain of transactions associated with coins. The more work the computers do, the higher the reward.
Today, cryptocurrency is used like regular money, though it isn’t widely accepted and its value can be highly volatile. Coins are traded in digital applications that act like exchanges and allow users to buy, sell, or trade coins quickly, but prices can significantly fluctuate. As an example, in April 2021, one Bitcoin could have bought a new, fully-loaded Chevy Silverado, but two months later, it was only enough for a used Toyota Prius. Cryptocurrency is currently viewed less as a currency and more of an investment, though it is incredibly risky.
Mining can be done on regular computers at home, but it is not profitable as it uses a lot of energy and produces a lot of heat and noise. Mike Lugiewicz told CNN about a mining operation near his home in Cherokee County, saying it was like “a small jet that never leaves.”
This prompted the county to pass an ordinance in 2016 which was updated in November 2020. It seeks to protect vulnerable populations from activities like asphalt and chemical production, traditional mines, quarries, and landfills. Data centers and crypto mining facilities are now only permitted on parcels with a 750-foot setback from property lines.
The Town of Waynesville also added two new categories to their land development standards in November. Cryptocurrency mining facilities are completely prohibited in all town zoning categories. Data centers are only allowed in the commercial-industrial zone, with the exception of small data centers incidental to other permitted uses.
The other municipalities in Haywood County have not yet discussed the issue, though it may be considered in Maggie Valley if the planning board so chooses.