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Bitcoin mining operation on Navajo land in New Mexico 'positive for the community': Site manager

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Kennette Phillips, site manager for the first bitcoin mining operation on Navajo land, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the project.

Video Transcript

- A new story being watched is the first-ever Bitcoin mining operation on Navajo land. It's raising new questions about whether or not it's a problematic piece of Bitcoin's movement here or if it's generally helping all people. In the latest example there, we're showing you on the map in New Mexico, the town of Shiprock on Navajo land, where a Canadian company Westblock Capital, set up a mining operation there. And the discrepancy, I suppose, there that has brought some criticism is citizens of Navajo Nation, some of them, go without electricity or running water in their homes. And some might point to this as a potential problematic use of energy on the land.

But for more on that, I want to bring on the site manager for that first-ever Bitcoin mining operation on Navajo land here. Kennette Phillips joins us right now alongside Yahoo Finance's crypto reporter David Hollerith, here with us as well. And Ms. Phillips, appreciate you coming on here to chat with us. Because, you know, as we've discussed, you know, a lot of these Bitcoin mining operations use energy that might otherwise not be used. In this example, solar power, I believe, is what's powering this. But talk to me about what you've seen there and, I guess, how it's helping or hurting.

KENNETTE PHILLIPS: It's from an understanding-- it's utilizing electricity that's not being used. We had electricity that was just sitting there going to waste and they were losing-- there was no profit there. So when the Canadian company came in, [INAUDIBLE] found a way to make money and make a profit out of it. And, of course, it goes back to Navajo Nation, along with [INAUDIBLE]. It is-- it's-- others don't understand it right off the bat, that it's deemed negative. It's seen from a negative perspective when really it's actually something positive for the community and for the Navajo Nation as well.

- Yeah, hey, Kennette, David Hollerith here. Yeah, so can you just talk about what you do on a day-to-day basis? Like, what is it like to run a Bitcoin mining operation?

KENNETTE PHILLIPS: So technically, we're not mining in the ground when we-- what we do is we get to site. We take our daily power readings, do what we call a walkthrough to check on each machine in the containers and the buildings, make sure they're running. If it's not running, we'll corespond with our technical and operations specialists from Canada. And we'll figure out what the next steps are as far as diagnosis and such to make the repairs.

It is local, so the travel is not a great distance, whereas others here on the reservation would-- for example, if I was to get a job outside Shiprock, I would have to do like a 30-minute bus commute. Whereas working here on site, I'm here with 10 minutes. So it's both good and-- it's good. Overall, it's good.

- Yeah, I guess the next thing I was going to ask, too, is how-- I guess-- it sounds like the power that you draw from this operation is not necessarily in the same place where people on the reservation do not have access to power. I was just sort of curious if you could, sort of, explain that more.

KENNETTE PHILLIPS: So there is-- there are some-- lot of misconceptions. It's-- living on the reservation is completely different compared to living off the reservation. There are a little bit more guidelines and restrictions in place in order for individuals who do not have electricity. For example, number one, it could be they are out in the middle of the reservation. There are families that do not want land disturbed. There are-- it-- and it goes back to cost. It's remote.

But here in Shiprock, I once worked for the local [INAUDIBLE] for the local chapter. And there are a couple of things that an individual must meet in order to have utilities. And sometimes they do not meet certain criteria. And it's-- unfortunately, that's just how the Navajo Nation has their rules in place in order to get the electricity. It's not that they are flat-out denied.

For example, we are allotted one acre of land with an understanding that we are enrolled members of the Navajo Nation. We do not pay taxes. Now, if we were to move and relocate to off reservation, then we would pay state taxes. We don't pay state taxes. So there are different-- there is a big difference there, you know, living on the reservation and not living on the reservation. And these things are not-- yeah, these things are not set up the way someone would want it set up. You know, it all goes back [INAUDIBLE]

- It's all very interesting to see this play out, too, in the way that, you know, like you said, energy that may have been untapped there and now other questions around the taxes and things, too. But interesting to see it play out and interesting to have you on to chat about the first site manager for the first Bitcoin mining operation on Navajo land. Appreciate you joining us here, Kennette Phillips, alongside Yahoo Finance's David Hollerith.