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Company to buy Panther Creek Nesquehoning plant will be used for bitcoin mining

The Panther Creek Power Plant in Nesquehoning could be used to mine cryptocurrency.

Stronghold Digital Mining, a company formed in Venango County earlier this year, says it has a contract to purchase the plant from its current owner.

The company already owns another power plant in Western Pennsylvania, and says it has received over $100 million from investors to acquire waste coal plants.

Bitcoin “mining” is the process of putting new bitcoins into circulation. But the process is controversial because it uses large amounts of electricity. Stronghold says that by acquiring old cogeneration plants, it can clean up waste coal while producing bitcoins, making it more beneficial for the environment.

Panther Creek was built to burn coal refuse left over from mining operations for the purpose of cleaning up abandoned mine lands while producing electricity.

But with stiff competition in the energy market, waste coal power plants operate fewer days a year, meaning they burn less waste coal.

Stronghold announced its plans to acquire Panther Creek in a recent press release. The company did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Olympus Power, the New Jersey-based company which currently owns Panther Creek.

Jaret Gibbons said that Stronghold’s investment will help the waste coal industry overcome its struggles in the market. A state tax credit has helped plants stay open, but they still have trouble competing with other forms of electricity.

Jaret Gibbons, executive director of the Anthracite Region Independent Power Producers Association, said it is an innovative idea to bring more private investment into the industry.

“This can inject more private dollars from ownership into mine reclamation without having to rely on public resources,” he said.

Last year, Panther Creek cleaned up just 10% as much waste coal as it did a decade ago, 64,000 tons versus 690,000, according to the Anthracite Region Independent Power Producers Association, the organization which represents the state’s waste coal industry. Statewide, waste coal plants are cleaning up about half as much as they did a decade ago.

Stronghold is betting that using waste coal plants to produce bitcoin will alleviate some of the concerns about their industry’s impact on the environment. The company says that each bitcoin it produces will also result in the elimination of 200 tons of waste coal.

Stronghold Digital Mining has a contract to purchase the Panther Creek Power Plant in Nesquehoning. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO