JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Washington County’s legal effort to shut down a Bitcoin mine that has been a source of controversy in Limestone since May 2021 won’t go to trial for another year.

County commissioners rejected a final settlement proposal from defendants BrightRidge and Red Dog Technologies in November. County Attorney Allyson Wilkinson told them last month she expected the case to go to trial before the fall.

Instead, Chancellor John Rambo has set a trial for Feb. 5-7, 2024. Pre-trial briefs from each side are due by Jan. 4, 2024.

“I know we’re all disappointed that this isn’t moving at a faster pace,” Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said Friday. “We anticipated it would be much sooner, possibly summer. We all want resolution.”

The trial date is nearly three years after neighbors began complaining about noise at the facility, where high-powered computers solve complex algorithms to “mine” the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Fans used to cool the computers are the source of the noise.

Commissioners learned in September 2021 that Planning Director Angie Charles and Wilkinson had determined the mine violated zoning regulations and ordered BrightRidge — which had successfully sought a rezoning in 2020 for a “blockchain data center” — to shut it down.

BrightRidge leases land adjacent to the Bailey Bridge Road substation and sells Red Dog massive amounts of power for its operation.

BrightRidge responded by saying the county’s issue was with Red Dog, even though Bitcoin mining had never been mentioned prior to startup. (Technically, a Bitcoin mine is a type of blockchain data center).

The county sued BrightRidge in November 2021 and Red Dog was quickly added as a defendant. Rambo set a trial for July 2022 but then the sides nearly settled with a deal that would have allowed Red Dog to replace the Limestone facility with one in the Washington County Industrial Park.

Commissioners ultimately rejected that settlement three months ago in a 13-2 vote.

Like Matherly, Freddie Malone voted against the settlement.

He said he fears another delay could come before the currently set date arrives. 

“I don’t think it’s fair for us to assume that this matter will be heard in court on that date. I think there’s a good chance it will be delayed and extended far past that date.” 

Malone said he was frustrated at the time, legal expense and effort spent since county commissioners first ordered the site shut down in October 2021.

“I don’t think any of the commissioners then or now expected that it would take this long,” Malone said. 

He said the continued delays work in Red Dog and BrightRidge’s favor, allowing the company to continue operating and making money while BrightRidge continues to sell electricity to what CEO Jeff Dykes confirmed is its largest customer.

“They would prefer there never had been any conflict, but in light of the conflict I think their position has likely been delay, stall, drag it out – run out the clock essentially,” Malone said.

“And we have to remember that is not just Red Dog and GRIID (Red Dog’s parent company), that is our community partner BrightRidge.”