March 30, 2021

Mines from Aluminum to Crypto


Mines from Aluminum to Crypto
Nadvoitsy has been called the Pripyat of the Arctic; this is what a post-Chernobyl Pripyat classroom looked like in 2011. Wikimedia Commons user Shanomag

What's more mysterious than a nearly abandoned Soviet-era ghost town in the Arctic? A nearly-abandoned Soviet-era ghost town in the Arctic that's seeing an uncanny resurgence through internet wizardry.

The town of Nadvoitsy developed around an aluminum factory planted in the Arctic by the Soviets. At its height, it had more than 10,000 residents. Now, apartments are on sale for R150,000-R400,000 ($1,973-$5,262), and no one buys them. For comparison, the cost of an entire apartment in Nadvoitsy would buy a person root canals and crowns on two teeth in St. Petersburg, as this author knows from recent personal experience.

Now that the aluminum factory is closed, who wants to stay in the Arctic? No one, really. The Komsomolskaya Pravda writer who investigated the story contends that, "According to all the laws of economics, [Nadvoitsy] had to die."

But investors recently spent $5 billion dollars to keep this monotown from turning into a ghost town. Why?

The old factory is now a data center. After all, "every pie shop now has an online store." That digital data has to be stored somewhere!

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin can also be mined there, meaning that a town that was once close to being forgotten is now becoming more and more valuable. With a hydroelectric plant nearby, electricity is cheap. Servers and mining release enormous amounts of heat, but in the Arctic, there is no need for expensive coolers.

Since a data center pretty much runs itself, thousands of factory jobs have been replaced with only hundreds of high-tech ones. Still, the new facility is pumping a lot of money into the local economy.

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