Satellite Images Show Bhutan’s Secret State-Owned Bitcoin Mining Facilities

Ruholamin Haqshanas
Last updated: | 2 min read
Image Source: Pixabay

Satellite images have uncovered Bhutan’s undisclosed state-owned Bitcoin (BTC) mining operations. 

The landlocked Himalayan nation, known for its seclusion and breathtaking landscapes, has transformed itself into a crypto haven under the rule of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, according to a recent analysis by Forbes

The report noted that Bhutan’s government has allocated land, funding, and energy to these secret mining facilities, hoping to mitigate an impending economic crisis. 

However, the exact locations and extent of these operations have remained a mystery until now.

Forbes, which previously reported on Bhutan’s multimillion-dollar bitcoin portfolio, has identified four mining sites through sources knowledgeable about Bhutan’s crypto investments and satellite imagery from Planet Labs, Satellite Vu, and Google Earth. 

These images reveal long rectangular mining units, data center cooling systems, and high-capacity power lines and transformers connecting Bhutan’s hydroelectric plants to the mining sites. 

These facilities have never been publicly disclosed.

One of the facilities, considered the pilot location for Bhutan’s Bitcoin mining endeavors, was constructed near Dochula Pass. 

This area holds cultural and political significance as it houses 108 memorial shrines dedicated to fallen Bhutanese soldiers. 

Satellite imagery indicates that construction began in 2020 and seemingly finished in late 2022. 

The site is concealed within miles of forest, hidden from casual observers despite its proximity to a busy highway.

Another mining site is located near Trongsa, the ancestral seat of the current Wangchuck dynasty, while a third is situated in the densely forested district of Dagana. 

Failed Government Project Becomes Largest BTC Mining Facility

The largest and most significant mining facility is positioned on the site of a failed $1 billion government project called “Education City.” 

The project aimed to establish an international center for education and knowledge but was abandoned due to scandals and mismanagement. 

The Bitcoin mine on this site is concealed behind mountainous terrain but is betrayed by transformers and power lines. 

Historical satellite imagery reveals that its construction began in December 2021.

Bhutan’s sovereign investing arm, Druk Holdings & Investment (DHI), confirmed the existence of these mines but declined to disclose their locations, citing commercial sensitivity. 

The country’s government, including the Ministry of Finance, has remained tight-lipped about its cryptocurrency activities. 

DHI, which also oversees Bhutan’s flagship airline, hydroelectric power plants, and a cheese factory, has not provided detailed information on revenues or investment in bitcoin mining.

Bhutan’s interest in bitcoin mining arose as a response to the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With tourism revenues and hydropower exports to India severely impacted, the country sought alternative solutions. 

Bhutanese officials began engaging with bitcoin miners and suppliers in 2020. 

The country experienced a significant surge in power usage by the industry in 2022, along with a substantial increase in imports of chips used for Bitcoin mining.

While the identified state-owned mines represent a significant development, they may not be Bhutan’s largest. 

The country recently partnered with Singaporean Bitcoin mining giant Bitdeer for a 600 MW facility in the town of Gedu. 

This partnership aims to create 300 to 400 jobs and establish a new computing sector in Bhutan. Bitdeer has been actively seeking investors for a $500 million “green crypto mining” fund.

Despite economic challenges and the need for reforms, Bhutan remains committed to blockchain-based solutions. 

The country recently unveiled an experimental decentralized digital identity app, with the crown prince serving as the first test subject and digital citizen.