JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — BrightRidge’s board of directors approved a settlement proposal Friday in Washington County’s lawsuit against the utility and a Bitcoin mine operator it partners with, clearing the way for the shutdown of a controversial Bitcoin mine in the Limestone community.
Attending board members unanimously approved the deal, which county commissioners modified and then approved Thursday night. BrightRidge approval was the final hurdle, as GRIID, parent company of mine operator Red Dog Technologies and a co-defendant, has okayed the settlement.
The deal will see the mine next to a BrightRidge substation on Bailey Bridge Road shut down no later than the end of 2024 and probably much earlier. Red Dog will purchase five acres of county-owned land at the Washington County Industrial Park and put a new mine there, closing the site in Limestone’s New Salem community no later than six months after the new one is operational.
BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said following the vote he believes the settlement — which includes several additional concessions by BrightRidge and Red Dog — is “a win” for each party.
Dykes also spoke to the residents of the New Salem community of Limestone, who began complaining more than a year ago about noise from the fans that cool computers at the mine.
“We apologize they’ve gone through all of this,” Dykes said. “We thank them for their patience. We hope that as this moves forward with some of the things that are being extended out to them that it’ll be something that will improve their lives and their daily interaction and the opportunities that come with it, especially broadband.”
The settlement says BrightRidge will extend its high-speed broadband internet service to the 51 homes within a half-mile radius of the current mine and provide the service free for at least a year, and for as long as the mine is still operating.
Board chairman James Smith spoke of what he called the integrity of BrightRidge’s board, of Dykes and of the organization.
“The team members at BrightRidge will always go above and beyond to do things the right way, and I do think not only thinking about BrightRidge but to think about the community, which is what we’re doing all the time,” Smith said.
The county sued BrightRidge in November 2021 after BrightRidge resisted its demands to shut the mine down because it violated the county’s zoning ordinance. BrightRidge said the county’s issue was with Red Dog, which later joined as a co-defendant.
Washington County Chancellor John Rambo has already ruled that the use does violate the ordinance, but a trial on additional matters related to the suit was set for July 11-13. The settlement eliminates the need for a trial and the possibility of an appeals process that could easily last more than two years.
Board member Jenny Brock said the board should expect additional unprecedented opportunities and challenges as new technologies like blockchain, the basis for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, proliferate.
“We’re facing growth of things that are brand new,” Brock said. “Brand spanking new. And so we’re trying to figure out as we go along how we accommodate for those things. So I think we’ve had a big learning here all the way around that we need to prepare and get ready for, because the world is changing whether we want to or not.”