HARRISON, Ark. — Plans for a cryptocurrency mine are causing an uproar in Harrison.
This isn’t a traditional mine with pick axes and excavators, but rather a building full of computer servers that work around the clock to generate digital currency like Bitcoin.
The proposed site is a grassy area surrounded by houses, leaving neighbors on edge.
“It’s a small town,” Brooke Lawrence said. She’s lived in Harrison for the last 25 years. “We’re in farmland where we have green grass, fresh air.”
What Lawrence has also described as a quiet town, just got a bit louder.
“It’s just up to everybody protesting, everyone standing up for Arkansas, the Natural State, and Harrison, our hometown,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence and others are protesting the proposed cryptocurrency mine. The center would sit off of Old Bellefonte Road, just two miles from Lawrence’s house.
“The simple truth is we’re building a data storage facility in an area that’s done heavy industrial,” Project Manager Brian Warner said.
Residents attended a public meeting Tuesday to ask their questions. But, things got off to a rocky start.
City Hall was at capacity, leaving around 50 people stuck outside. After some back and forth between the city and residents, the mayor decided to override the capacity limits and let everyone into the meeting.
Many people took to the stand to share their opinions. One of Lawrence’s worries is the noise caused by fans working constantly to cool the computers. In other communities, cryptocurrency mines have disrupted neighbors with a loud, constant noise caused by the fans needed to cool down the massive computer servers.
“At the top of that red dirt is a brick building that’s the learning center where kids go to school ages zero through five,” Lawrence said. “My daughter could attend that school if I allowed her. But if this mine is here, I’m not allowing my daughter to go to school 1.2 miles away.”
Warner said noise is not a concern after visiting a similar facility nearby in Newport. Electricity was another concern residents brought up.
“I’ve heard that it’s going to use a lot of electricity,” resident Pam Minyard said. “I just don’t think this little town can support that.”
Warner responded to electricity concerns, saying the company planning to build the center has already allotted for added electricity use.
City leaders were supposed to vote on a conditional use permit for the land at Tuesday’s meeting. They tabled the vote to May.