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Washington State County Doubles Down on Cryptocurrency After Mining Bust

After the boom, backlash, and (partial) bust of Bitcoin in central Washington, one might expect an aversion to the technology. But instead, one authority wants to capitalize on the resources left in the aftermath, to promote new growth in blockchain.


A Story Sad To Tell

Central Washington’s story is not uncommon in the cryptocurrency world. A cool climate and a shed-full of cheap hydro-electric power attracted speculators from as far away as China. The new cryptocurrency gold-rush promised a rebirth for this sleepy rural part of the United States.

But when cryptocurrency prices dropped, so did the area’s fortunes. Companies over-leveraged through ambitious expansion plans, found themselves facing bankruptcy. While at the same time, the public backlash caused some authorities to take measures such as increasing electricity costs for miners.

But Douglas county has taken an alternative tack.

Speculate To Accumulate

Authorities there see huge potential in all the high-speed computing power and blockchain expertise leftover from the boom. By repositioning itself as a center of blockchain excellence, Douglas county hopes to benefit as the technology revolutionizes other industries.

Hydroelectric dam

Lisa Parks, executive director of the Port of Douglas county explains:

There is more to the cryptocurrency story than the boom and the bust. We have some unique assets that make our region appealing… Let’s figure out a way to capitalize on it.

But the proposed ‘Blockchain Innovation Campus’ is only part of the picture. In order to entice new development in the blockchain industry, Douglas county continues to encourage its existing cryptocurrency miners.

Bucking The Trend

Unlike neighboring Chelan and Grant counties, which essentially priced miners out of the market with energy-cost hikes, Douglas’s rate increase was far more modest.

The result of this has been continued investment from new mining operations. In November, Bitmain opened a $20 million mine in the region, near the town of East Wenatchee. And the county is trying to revive the mining operations of GigaWatt, which had become an unfortunate poster-boy for the area’s Bitcoin bust.

While some might expect a once-bitten twice shy attitude, having previously been burned, local authorities have a different outlook. As the next iteration of blockchain continues to develop, such an outlook should see them well placed for the next phase.

There is, after all, trusted wisdom in not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Will Douglas Country’s economy benefit from supporting the blockchain industry? Share your thoughts below!


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Venezuela: First Bitcoin ATM Opens ‘In 2 Weeks’ Amid Localbitcoins Shutdown Reports

Venezuela, the country seeing new Bitcoin trade volume records on an almost weekly basis, is to get its first ever Bitcoin ATM.


Cryptobuyer: ATM Already In Caracas

In an interview with local radio and news media network Union Radio, Jorge Farias, CEO of Panama-based Cryptobuyer, said the machine had already arrived in the country’s capital Caracas.

“We are going to install the first cryptocurrency ATM in Venezuela over the course of the next two weeks,” he told the network.

…We already have the equipment physically installed in Venezuela, in Caracas; it’s in its final test stage and we will then be making an announcement on social networks.

The pioneering move comes amid ever more difficult times for Venezuelans.

Venezuela's Central Bank Unveils App to Convert New Crypto-Pegged ‘Sovereign Bolivar’

As Bitcoinist variously reported, a toxic mixture of hyperinflation, travel and forex restrictions has made life for the average citizen often impossible.

At the same time, Venezuela’s government has pushed an agenda involving its state-issued cryptocurrency Petro, recently beginning to require certain payments – such as passports – only use the asset.

Petro has had a dubious reputation since inception, reports claiming that despite its peg to Venezuela’s $6 billion oil float, its backer in the form of state oil company PDVSA has $45 billion debts which undermine its status as a store of value.

Localbitcoins ‘Not Working’

It is thus little surprise that P2P Bitcoin trading has exploded, especially over the last six months of 2018.

According to the latest data from Coin Dance, the week ending January 5 was the second busiest on record for the Venezuelan Bolivar (VES) on Localbitcoins, with a total of 5.15 billion changing hands.

This was followed a dramatic drop for the week ending January 12, will social media commentators reporting the service was no longer accessible from inside Venezuela.

Cryptobuyer is first and foremost a merchant acceptance platform for Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC) and Dash (DASH), and at present only lists a modest network of five ATMs in Panama City. Its operational machines cater to all three cryptocurrencies.

Worldwide, the number of Bitcoin ATMs continues to expand. A deal announced this week between the first US operator, Coinme, and change counter Coinstar, could see up to 20,000 extra locations appear in the US soon.

What do you think about Venezuela’s Bitcoin ATM? Let us know in the comments below!


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Japan and Korea Officially Approve Their Biggest Crypto Exchanges

South Korea’s Internet & Security Agency (KISA) has granted an important certification to the country’s leading cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb. Meanwhile, in Japan, Coincheck, the country’s largest exchange, is now registered with the Financial Services Agency. 


Bithumb Granted ISMS Certification

Cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb has managed to obtain Information Security Management System certification from the country’s KISA.

According to the official release, this is the highest certification system in the country. Cryptocurrency exchanges, which earn more than $8.99 million are required by law to obtain this certification.

The company says it will continue working on increasing its security. Speaking on the matter, a Bithumb’s representative said:

We are going to continue to establish the industry’s best security system that can be safe and trustworthy. […] We are going to become a global business that will lead the cryptocurrency exchange market by establishing a safe and trustworthy cryptocurrency exchange.

In July 2016, Bithumb was hacked, resulting in the theft of more than $31 million worth of cryptocurrencies. The company confirmed that it will reimburse all affected users.

Japan’s Coincheck Completes FSA Registration

In another important event, one of Japan’s bigger cryptocurrency exchanges has managed to complete the registration process under the Registration Review Process of Virtual Currency Exchange issued by the country’s Financial Services Agency.

FSA

At the beginning of 2018, Coincheck was also hacked resulting in the theft of $420 million in XEM tokens. The company compensated its users and later got acquired by Monex Group – a Japanese-based financial services firm.

Korea and Japan are both prominent countries when it comes to bitcoin trading. According to Coinhills, the Japanese Yen (JPY) is the second most traded national currency for bitcoins after the USD, comprising almost 42 percent of all trading.

The Korean Won (KRW), on the other hand, is the third most traded national currency for BTC.

What do you think of Japan and South Korea approving some of their major cryptocurrency exchanges? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


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Bitmain Replaces CEO Jihan Wu After Bitcoin Cash Gamble Fails

Inside sources say that Bitmain Technologies plans to name a replacement CEO to take over from co-founders Jihan Wu and Ketuan Zhan.


New Bitmain CEO

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the Bitcoin mining behemoth is looking to name a new CEO to replace the company’s co-founders. Anonymous sources say, Haichao Wang, the current Engineering Director is the front-runner for the job.

Jihan Wu

While there is no official word from Bitmain, these sources say the company entered a leadership transition period in December 2018.

Back in November 2018, Bitcoinist reported Wu’s demotion from director to a supervisor. Also, in late December 2018, reports broke out in Chinese media of the imminent resignation of both Wu and Zhan.

There is also no definite timetable for the completion of the leadership reshuffle. Sources indicate that both Wu and Zhan will become co-chairs of the company. The new CEO will handle the daily administration of the firm while the pair will still have the final say on big decisions.

According to SCMP sources, both Wu and Zhan had disagreements as co-CEO. Wu, in particular, has come under intense criticism for the company’s bet on Bitcoin Cash. Zhan, on the other hand, has led Bitmain’s diversification efforts, especially into the artificial intelligence arena.

Turning the Tide

If the reports are accurate and Bitmain does get a new CEO, a daunting task awaits the selected individual. After a stellar 2017 and a promising start to 2018, the second half of the year appeared to fizzle out for the Bitcoin mining behemoth.

Bitmain is yet to release its Q3 2018 financial report, but speculation is rife of losses north of $740 million. A lot of the financial trouble stems from inventory losses, as well as the expensive Bitcoin Cash hash war of November 2018.

Recently, the company even began laying off a significant portion of its workforce. In December 2018, Bitmain fired its R&D department based in Israel. This move was followed by another massive downsizing, nixing the company’s Bitcoin Cash development team.

The company’s IPO plan is also another casualty of the financial turmoil within the company. Despite announcing plans for an IPO listing in Hong Kong earlier in 2018, all signs point to such plans being unfeasible, for the present time, at least.

Will a new CEO be able to steer Bitmain in a better direction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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France Starts Selling Bitcoin At 6 Tobacco Shops – 6,500 By Next Month

An initiative to sell Bitcoin (BTC) in France’s 24,000 tobacco kiosks has tentatively launched despite votes of no confidence from the central bank and other sources.


6 Tobacconists Today, 6500 By February

As Reuters reported January 8 quoting organizer Adil Zakhar, six ‘Tabac’ shops in Paris began offering prepaid Bitcoin cards this week, with plans to roll out the scheme in rapid fashion to over 6500 as soon as next month.

“Some people find it complicated to get bitcoins online,” Zakhar told the publication.

They trust their local tobacco shop owner more than they would trust some remote anonymous website.

As co-founder of technology company KeplerK, Zakhar is presiding over a hotly contested move to bring Bitcoin into the French mainstream.

As Bitcoinist and others wrote in November, when the plan was announced, it met with opposition from parties including the Bank of France (BoF), officials denying they had sanctioned any form of Bitcoin sales by tobacconists.

This appeared to contradict the position of the French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority (ACPR), which operates under the auspices of the BoF and had given the go-ahead to KerplerK.

“…[N]o such deal is either being envisaged or under discussion,” the BoF said at the time.

Bitcoins And Bank Runs

The commencement of sales thus marks a further point in the confusing legislative environment surrounding cryptocurrency which has persisted in France.

yellow vest Paris Protests euro bitcoin

At the same time, both Bitcoin and banks continue to hit the mainstream media for other reasons.

Earlier this week, Bitcoinist reported on a fresh project by political grassroots movement the Gilets Jaunes, organizers calling for a run on the banks this Saturday, January 12.

Aiming to pressure the government “without the least bit of violence,” the so-called ‘Referendum des Percepteurs’ (‘Collectors’ Referendum’) closely mirrors a similar event in the Bitcoin world from last week – Trace Mayer’s Proof of Keys.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency users continue the search for a Bitcoin bounty hidden as part of a wall mural by Paris-based artist Pascal Boyart. An open wallet for contributions to the prize fund currently contains 0.287 BTC ($1155).

What do you think about France’s tobacconist Bitcoin sales? Let us know in the comments below!


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