Bitcoin mining in Navajo land yields jobs, revenues while revealing economic disparity

Tiffany Nelson knew little about cryptocurrency when she first happened upon a temporary labor job in 2019. A Canada-based company called Westblock was recruiting “labor hands,” in Nelson’s words, to help unload boxes in a data center facility on land belonging to the Navajo Nation.

A Navajo living on tribe land, Nelson considered the job rare for its proximity to her home. With a total tribe population of 400,000 people , only about 170,000 live on the reservation. That’s most often attributed to poor economic conditions and scarce employment opportunities, especially for women.

While grateful for the opportunity, Nelson’s employer didn’t initially tell her what the company’s business on the New Mexico reservation was.

Another Navajo woman, Kennette Phillips, who was hired around the same time, recalled similar misgivings surrounding the mysterious business of her employer.

As security guards kept watch over the site, Phillips, Nelson and another employee unloaded boxes and then began setting up the machines inside.

“When we opened the boxes, we found these machines that looked like toasters,” Phillips recalled. “We weren’t told what they were for. It seemed a little sketchy… we didn’t know if what we were doing was legal.” Tiffany Nelson (Photo courtesy of Compass Mining) Part of their growing concern was spurred by the crisis-level rates indigenous women have been kidnapped or murdered across Canada and the U.S.

When the two women, both single mothers, finally asked their employer what the site would be used for, they discovered with much relief, the company intended to use the […]

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