US Bans Chinese Bitcoin Mine Close to Nuclear Missile Base

President Joe Biden ordered a company that has origins in China to shut down and ultimately sell a cryptocurrency mine it operates in Wyoming only one mile from a U.S. Air Force base where intercontinental ballistic missiles that are armed with nuclear weapons are kept.

The facility, where high-powered computers are run in a massive data center, is located close to the F.E. Warren Air Force base in Cheyenne. In an executive order that Biden issued Monday, the facility “presents a national security risk to the United States” because the equipment it has could be put to use for espionage and surveillance purposes.

Last October, the New York Times reported that Microsoft flagged this cryptocurrency mine, warning the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States that it had the ability to enable China to “pursue full-spectrum intelligence collection operations.”

Microsoft operates a data center nearby the cryptocurrency in support of the Department of Defense.

Biden’s executive order this week said that the committee’s investigation ultimately identified real risks to U.S. national security. It didn’t go into detail about what those risks were, though.

The report Microsoft issued, a copy of which The Times obtained, read:

“We suggest the possibility that the computing power of an industrial-level cryptomining operation, along with the presence of an unidentified number of Chinese nationals in direct proximity to Microsoft’s Data Center and one of three strategic-missile bases in the U.S., provides significant threat vectors.”

As a result of Biden’s executive order this week, the mine has to cease operations immediately. The owners of mine also have to remove the equipment that is at the facility in the next 90 days and either transfer or sell the property in 120 days.

The order also cites risks of the “foreign-sourced” equipment that’s used for the mining at the facility. Much of the equipment that powers these types of operations throughout the U.S. are actually manufactured by companies that are based in China.

Cryptomining operations need to be housed in huge warehouses and are sometimes even located in shipping containers. They are all loaded with specialized computers that usually run non-stop, as they need to perform calculations at an unheard-of rate — as much as trillions every second.

What they are doing is trying to find a sequence of numbers that reward them with new cryptocurrency.

The most common cryptocurrency that’s mined is Bitcoin, which has a current price of more than $60,000.

One major issue that the cryptocurrency mines present — in addition to national security in this instance — is they require huge amounts of electricity to run. The mine in Cheyenne, when fully operational, could consume as much electricity as the equivalent of 55,000 homes.

These facilities have boomed in the U.S. ever since China effectively banned them back in 2021. Some have restarted back in China, but Chinese entrepreneurs often come to the U.S. to run these operations since electricity is cheap, relatively speaking, as well as the fact that the legal system here is well developed.