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Sound complaint lawsuit against Arkansas crypto mine company continues

Entrepreneur Craig Wright says he is the creator of the bitcoin crypto-currency. In this 2014 file photo, a man arrives for the Inside Bitcoins conference and trade show in New York.
Mark Lennihan
In this 2014 file photo, a man arrives for the Inside Bitcoins conference and trade show in New York.

Several Arkansans who live near a cryptocurrency mines are suing to stop the noise.

Crypto mines are large groups of computers designed to harvest cryptocurrency. They typically take up a full plot of land the length of a house. The noise from fans needed to keep the computers cool can be quite loud, emitting a constant high-pitched humming sound, audible from several blocks away.

Members of the Bono community of Greenbrier and Damascus are suing Newrays One LLC, one of many companies operating crypto mines in Arkansas. Residents seek punitive damages and are asking the company to stop mining in their community. The lawsuit alleges they are breaking sound laws and behaving negligently by not showing concern for their neighbors.

In a complaint, the plaintiffs say they can hear a loud “whining” noise from their houses, making it difficult to sleep, go outside and enjoy everyday life. Plaintiffs say the sound ranges from 60 to 70 decibels, the noise level of normal conversation. Plaintiffs say the mines are on 24 hours a day, every day.

The Bono mine is nestled across from a church and down the street from a rural neighborhood. Gladys Anderson lives in the lot on the right of the mine. She has an autistic son and a mother. She says the noise is unbearable.

“I cannot hear vehicles pulling into my driveway,” she said in her affidavit. “I cannot hear the kids when they are out of my sight. The birds have stopped coming for food in the back yard, and the deer have stopped coming into the yard.”

Anderson says she's needed to go to the doctor several times to mitigate the effects of the stress the mines have caused her, which she says include high blood pressure and ear issues. She kept a log of the decibel readings on the mine, which at times reached volumes of 70 to 90 decibels, about the sound level of a hairdryer.

Anderson is joined in the suit by more than 20 other plaintiffs who live near the mine on the adjacent Slatey Gap Road in Damascus.

One resident, Shane Markuson, is a cattle farmer. He says, from every room in his house, he can hear the ringing noise.

Like Anderson, he says the noises have caused him to experience high blood pressure. Moreover, he was upset with the way the crypto mine was affecting his ability to be comfortable as a livestock farmer.

“I can no longer enjoy sitting on my porch, watching the cattle graze and hear their soft moos,” Markuson said. “You cannot hear their moos at all. I did not sign up for any of this noise crap.”

Many of the residents shared a similar feeling of not being able to go outside after the mines were installed. They often ascribed new medical ailments to the noise of mines, as well as finding their property to be void of any resale value.

Mickey McMillen says he has lived on the same land for 100 years. After 35 years working in a freight job, he retired and spends his time farming and gardening.

“Now every morning when I walk out to feed the cattle and work the garden, I am met with the same piercing noise,” he said. “It is a constant annoyance that makes it impossible for me to enjoy the life I worked so hard for.”

The mines put up a partial sound barrier, which residents say help slightly, but doesn't silence the noise from the fans. Scott and Laveane Lovelady say there is little they can do to stiffen the noise. “The noise can be heard when the TVs are off and no fans are running,” they said in their statement, describing it as a squealing sound.

Newrays One LLC have not responded to the specific allegations in the complaint. The defense is trying to dismiss the case on procedural grounds. A statement from their lawyer Alexander Jones said: “The 23 plaintiffs have not met the requirements of both Arkansas and federal law in bringing their claims. And the plaintiffs have not identified any court case that has ever granted the sort of relief they are asking for.”

Meanwhile, plaintiffs are asking for a jury trial. The next court date is Friday, January 5.

A statewide controversy

Crypto mines have become more common after Act 851 was passed in the state legislature. The law essentially deregulates the mines, barring the state from treating them differently from other businesses. It was passed quickly in the Arkansas Legislature with almost no pushback or discussion.

Since then, mines have been popping up across the state with several in Northwest Arkansas and one in Dewitt. Construction on a planned crypto mine in Vilonia was halted after local public backlash. Some municipalities are passing noise ordinances to prevent them from being built. State Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, has called for a special session to overturn the Act 851.

Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward has asked Attorney General Tim Griffin to investigate the mines. He says that many of the crypto mine companies have “significant ties to China” and therefore violate state laws.

In 2023, the legislature passed Act 636. It prevents “foreign party-controlled businesses” from investing in Arkansas land. The law prompted Griffin to ask other companies with ties to China to divest their land holdings in the state.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.