Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become the first national park in the world to run a Bitcoin (BTC) mine in an effort to protect its forests and wildlife. Gouspillou, CEO of Big Block Green Services, and the man who introduced Bitcoin mining to the park, said with a smile: “Bitcoin mining saved the park from bankruptcy.”
Virunga National Park, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is Africa’s oldest protected space and a testament to the biodiversity and natural beauty of the continent. But the park has faced increasing pressure from local militia groups that have waged violent attacks on its animals and employees, all while various problems, including COVID-19, led to an extended closure of the park to tourists, which it claims represents approximately 40% of its revenue.
A report in the MIT Technology Review describes how park director Emmanuel de Merode has turned to bitcoin mining to monetize the park’s abundant natural resources that are otherwise stranded in order to preserve the park’s existence.
De Merode met with Sébastien Gouspillou, owner of Big Block Green Services, which advised El Salvador on its “Bitcoin City.” Gouspillou described how “[They] used to do mining by buying electricity — it wasn’t efficient. The money maybe goes to oligarchs in Kazakhstan. In Virunga, we see it’s saving the park.” The park almost died after the COVID-19 epidemic killed visitors to see the gorillas, other animals, and waterfalls. The article stated that tourists accounted for 40% of park earnings.
Gouspillou was moved to aid the park after learning about its troubles. At the end of 2019, he met with the park’s director, Belgian prince Emmanuel De Merode, at a French château. Gouspillou saw the park’s huge potential right away. To survive, the park might exploit its rich, undeveloped natural resources. Gouspillou showed De Merode how Virunga may profit from Bitcoin mining.
The chateau spoke nonstop. “It must’ve lasted hours,” Gouspillou said. After discussions, follow-ups, and a trip to Congo, De Merode started the mining operation in early 2020 and mined the first coins in September. Nearly three years later, Bitcoin revenue boosted the park. The park received up to $150,000 a month during the 2021 bull run, nearly covering lost visitor revenue.
The park’s three hydro facilities, which currently power adjacent communities, power the mine. The site employs nine full-time workers who operate jungle miners in shifts. Fearless rangers defend the place, inspiring a Netflix documentary. Each of the facility’s 10 shipping containers holds 250–500 rigs. Gouspillou has seven containers and Virunga has three. Gouspillou keeps bitcoin and buys electricity from Virunga.