Bitcoin mine brings hope to small town devastated by job losses

Rebecca Johnson-Vasquez, chair of the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce and owner of Lone Star Guns & Goods on Main Street, sells a handgun to a customer on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (KXAN/Chris Davis)

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Rebecca Johnson-Vasquez, chair of the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce and owner of Lone Star Guns & Goods on Main Street, sells a handgun to a customer on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (KXAN/Chris Davis)

ROCKDALE, Texas (KXAN) — A Chinese company plans to open a Bitcoin mining operation in the small town of Rockdale, and the people who live there hope it helps restore much-needed jobs.

It’s not the mining Milam County is used to, but without the jobs the area lost when the coal-fired power plant there closed earlier this year, it’s redefining itself for a modern economy.

Mining Bitcoin uses specialized hardware and software to solve complex math problems that help make the digital currency’s transaction network more secure. In return for doing that work, the miner is rewarded in Bitcoin.

The company Bitmain Technologies plans to announce the operation in the coming days, the company’s North American executive vice president and director of operations, Jeff Stearns, told KXAN.

Local reports indicate the facility could create 300-500 jobs, but Stearns couldn’t confirm that number. He expected to release more information when the company officially announced its plans.

There’s a lot of risk involved in opening an operation like that. The digital crypto-currency Bitcoin is volatile; the price of a single Bitcoin now is around $8,000, but it’s been as high as $19,000 as recently as December. The often rapid change could jeopardize the long-term profitability of a digital mining operation, an Austin-based analyst told KXAN.

But that’s not stopping Milam County from hoping.

On KXAN News Today, how people in Rockdale hope the new operation re-energizes a community that needs it.

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