President Biden on Monday ordered a company with Chinese origins to shut down and sell the Wyoming cryptocurrency mine it built a mile from an Air Force base that controls nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The cryptomining facility, which operates high-powered computers in a data center near the F.E. Warren base in Cheyenne, “presents a national security risk to the United States,” the president said in an executive order, because its equipment could be used for surveillance and espionage.

The New York Times reported last October that Microsoft, which operates a nearby data center supporting the Pentagon, had flagged the Chinese-connected cryptocurrency mine to the federal Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, warning that it could enable the Chinese to “pursue full-spectrum intelligence collection operations.” An investigation by the committee identified risks to national security, according to the president’s order.

The order did not detail those risks. But Microsoft’s report to the federal committee, obtained last year by The Times, said, “We suggest the possibility that the computing power of an industrial-level cryptomining operation, along with the presence of an unidentified number of Chinese nationals in direct proximity to Microsoft’s Data Center and one of three strategic-missile bases in the U.S., provides significant threat vectors.”

Now, the mine must immediately cease operations, and the owners must remove all their equipment within 90 days and sell or transfer the property within 120 days, according to the order, which cites the risks of the facility’s “foreign-sourced” mining equipment. A vast majority of the machinery powering cryptomining operations across the United States is manufactured by Chinese companies.

Cryptomining operations are housed in large warehouses or shipping containers packed with specialized computers that typically run around the clock, performing trillions of calculations per second, hunting for a sequence of numbers that will reward them with new cryptocurrency. The most common is Bitcoin, currently worth more than $60,000 apiece. Crypto mines consume an enormous amount of electricity: At full capacity, the one in Cheyenne would draw as much power as 55,000 homes.


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