On the finish of August, a digital platform known as ECOS Free Financial Zone delivered good news from a country that hardly ever sparks on the worldwide crypto map — Armenia. ECOS reported including 60 megawatts (MW) of capability to its energy plant-based facility, working since 2018.
Located at one of many hydroelectric crops on the Hrazdan river, the mining facility will get its electrical energy provide immediately from the high-voltage grid and makes use of the positioning’s infrastructure to energy containers. The platform’s representatives famous that ECOS may increase to a further 200MW of unpolluted electrical energy. For comparability, the Berlin Geothermal plant in El Salvador gives away 1.5MW of the 102MW it produces to crypto miners, whereas the Greenidge Technology close to the shore of Seneca Lake within the State of New York ought to have produced about 44MW.
Given the controversial developments with crypto mining regulation within the Commonwealth of Impartial States (CIS) area — international locations of the previous Soviet Union — maybe it’s excessive time to evaluate the commercial potential of this post-Soviet republic, towering 1,850 meters above sea stage.
Essentially the most sure truth about Armenia concerning crypto is that we don’t get a lot data from the nation. In 2018, the Armenian Blockchain Affiliation joined its counterparts from Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Russia, China and South Korea in submitting a joint lawsuit against tech goliaths equivalent to Google, Twitter and Fb for banning crypto-related promoting. The lawsuit’s additional future is unclear, although the restrictions on crypto advertisements have been uplifted at the very least to some extent in recent times.
The identical 12 months, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and different high officers reportedly attended the opening ceremony of a new mining farm touting itself as one of many world’s largest. By native media estimates, round $50 million had been invested within the creation of the farm with 3,000 Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) mining machines and a deliberate capability of 120,000 sooner or later. The farm is a three way partnership by main Armenian conglomerate Multi Group, based by businessman and politician Gagik Tsarukyan and controversial worldwide mining agency Omnia Tech. No updates concerning the work of the farm have hit the media radar because the very opening press releases.
Maybe an important and publicly seen improvement from the nation of three million was the failure of efforts to type a shared stance regarding cryptocurrency regulations by the Eurasian Financial Union (EAEU). In 2021, a excessive official from EAEU revealed that member states didn’t assist a current initiative for a uniform cryptocurrency regulatory framework inside the union. Whereas no insights on what precise members sabotaged a undertaking can be found, the failure itself can have a long-lasting influence on the entire area, because the EAEU contains not solely Armenia and Belarus but in addition such mining heavyweights as Russia and Kazakhstan.
Whereas there are not any traces of the present legislative framework on crypto within the nation (and no prohibition as effectively), Armenia stepped on its regulatory path again in 2017 by forming a committee on blockchain applied sciences.
In 2018, the native Ministry of Finance launched a working group known as JAF Crypto Market Intelligence Unit (JAF CMIU), whose job was to review attainable regulatory situations. That very same 12 months, a particular Free Financial Zone (ECOS) was established by the federal government decree to assist appeal to and develop blockchain and crypto startups.
The potential residents of the two.2-hectares ECOS are granted the monetary advantages of zero value-added tax (VAT), the absence of import and export duties and no tax burden on property and actual property. Because the official web page goes, the ECOS additionally provides multifunctional workspaces, a analysis and improvement middle, acceleration packages and the infrastructure comprised of an influence plant, knowledge middle and mining farm with Bitmain tools. The one tax to which the zone residents are topic is a month-to-month cost of revenue tax for workers.
The mining capacities of the free financial zone are secured by the electrical energy from the Hrazdan Thermal Energy Plant, located in a mountainous area of Armenia with a low common annual temperature, making it advantageous for reducing cooling prices.
Talking to Cointelegraph, ECOS advertising supervisor Anna Komashko cites the latter truth as a severe benefit, nodding to the current issues for miners in Texas after a scorching heatwave within the Southern state. As she specifies, presently 60% of the Armenian facility’s 260,000 customers are from the USA and Europe.
A mountain of mining?
Armenia posseses at the very least two massive mining services, one in every of them advertising itself as state-of-the-art. The nation’s authorities additionally appears reasonably pleasant towards crypto, albeit with none concrete laws being thought-about. However is that this sufficient to think about the nation significantly engaging for investments?
Maybe such broad components because the nation’s ascendance in clear governance scores, the big consumption of IT specialists who’ve left Russia, and the pure leaning to draw the high-tech and repair companies within the absence of great exhausting business may additionally work in Armenia’s favor.
However, with crypto mining, the decisive significance nonetheless lies within the realm of the fabric, i.e., the general power profile of the nation.
Information from a 2021 research by the DEKIS Analysis group on the College of Avila ranks Armenia 56th within the world crypto mining potential rating. The place itself isn’t too low — for instance, with all its gargantuan ambitions, El Salvador occupies solely line quantity 73. Kazakhstan, which for a brief interval turned the prime spot for Chinese language miners, sits at 66th, and Iran ranks a hundred and fifteenth.
However extra curiously, by its potential, Armenia outranks neighboring Georgia (83th), which has established itself as a mining hub and by 2018 ranked second across the globe in Bitcoin (BTC) mining profitability.
Nevertheless, one may query the DEKIS report itself as, in response to its knowledge, each mountainous international locations possess close to to zero quantity of renewable power (0% within the case of Georgia, 0.1% in Armenia, to be exact). Talking to Cointelegraph, Arcane Analysis analyst Jaran Mellerud recited remarkably completely different figures:
“In Georgia, 75% of the electrical energy is generated by hydropower, whereas this quantity is barely 31% in Armenia.”
These numbers, Mellerud believes, make a distinction for potential miners who naturally search cheaper power. Whereas hydropower has nearly zero marginal manufacturing value, pure fuel and nuclear energy — which nonetheless type a complete majority of energy provide in Armenia — are manner much less handy for collateral use. In spite of everything, Mellerud can’t take into account the nation as an particularly engaging course for overseas mining because of native costs:
“The issue is excessive electrical energy costs, particularly now when pure fuel costs are going by the roof, and a major share of Armenia’s electrical energy is generated by pure fuel. I used to be in Georgia this summer season, and even there, miners are leaving the nation.”
By 2021, the value per kilowatt hour (KWh) of power in Armenia amounted to $0.077, which was comparatively decrease than in developed markets (take an instance $0.372 in Germany and even $0.15 in the USA), however nonetheless larger than in Kazakhstan ($0.041), Uzbekistan ($0.028) or Iran ($0.005). With the inflation of worldwide power costs, the numbers might change considerably, nevertheless it hardly would result in considerably completely different outcomes.
In keeping with the nation’s profile from Worldwide Power Company (IEA), Armenia is closely dependent on Russia by way of its consumption, importing round 85% of its fuel and all of its nuclear gasoline from there. All in all, it depends on gasoline imports from one nation to provide almost 70% of its electrical energy, “elevating considerations concerning the range of provide.”
As a report from OCCRP suggests, even the rising quantity of small hydroelectric crops supplied solely 9% of consumed power by 2013, with environmental scientists elevating considerations about these crops endangering native rivers’ water stability.