A serious Russian investment in a new mining facility in Norway has sparked questions – why here, why now? Russians are throwing a billion kroner into a project to install thousands of powerful computers mere kilometers from the scene of a large NATO exercise. The construction of the farm is expected to begin this summer, and Norwegian counterintelligence is already interested to know what’s in the arriving containers.
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Russian Mining Farm in the Forests of Norway
The Russian New Mining Company, a well-known business offering industrial scale crypto mining solutions and opportunities, is working on a serious investment in Norway. It wants to install thousands of mining units in a new farm. Local companies are also participating in the project worth a billion Norwegian kroner (~$125 million USD).
Construction will start in August but eight containers of equipment have already been delivered to the site in the municipality of Alvdal. The region has already attracted crypto companies from Israel, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, and the US, offering low electricity rates and developed communications infrastructure. However, some have asked the question why Russians are so interested in Norway, when Russia offers good conditions for miners.
Trident Juncture 2018, the largest NATO-led military exercise in the history of the Nordic member-state, is set to begin on October 5, in the neighboring municipality of Tynset, mere kilometers from the planned concentration of Russian computing power. 40,000 troopers and 130 aircraft will be deployed south of Røros, a municipality in the Trøndelag county.
According to a publication by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, the proximity of the Russian crypto mining facility to the theater of the planned maneuvers of the Alliance has attracted the attention of the Norwegian special services. Locals are also wondering – why the Russians have so suddenly chosen their area and why exactly now.
Some Say Computers Can Be Tweaked
The mining farm will be set up about 5 km northwest of Alvdal, on the edge of a dense forest. High capacity power and optical cables are already stretching there, and according to the Norwegian newspaper, the entire area looks like quarry. Representatives of Nordanvind, the company that oversees the construction, have already met with Norwegian authorities to provide details about the project.
“We believe that the arrival of the Russians [and the NATO exercise] here is a pure coincidence. It is easy to find out what kind of equipment they’ve brought in the containers. I don’t think that it can be used for anything else but mining bitcoins,” said Arund Løvik, a Nordandvind official. The company has been founded by seven municipalities and three companies from the Hedmark county with the initial goal to attract to its facilities giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. However, these efforts have been unsuccessful so far.
Jonny Andersen, a New Mining Company representative in Norway, also tried to defuse the situation: “As far as I know, the Russian owners are serious guys. They understand that Norwegian special services are closely interested in their activities. They are expecting the checks and they are not afraid of anything,” he said. Andersen is also managing the local firm Fjell-IT, Inosmi quotes the Norwegian publication.
Others are not so sure about the purpose of the project. Torgeir Waterhouse, director of the Internet and New Media Department of the Norwegian IT Industry Association (IKT-Norge), emphasized that only those with direct access to the hardware can tell exactly what the computers are intended for. He believes that it’s possible to use the equipment for a powerful cyber attack, although only a limited scale one. The whole point in such attacks, he noted, is that they are carried out in secret and from a good distance.
The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) has confirmed it is informed of the imminent arrival of the Russians. “We are aware of the construction and the Russian plans but we prefer not to comment on these events,” said Martin Bernsen, a senior adviser with the PST. “NATO exercises, without a doubt, wake up the interest of foreign intelligence services,” he added.
The Norwegian military intelligence admitted it has received reports about the Russian project, too. However, the press secretary of the Norwegian Commander-in-Chief, Per-Thomas Bøe, stressed that the PST is authorized to speak on the issue on behalf of all Norwegian authorities. The National Security Agency (NSM) also commented laconically: “We are familiar with the situation and we refrain from further comment,” said Hans Christian Pretorius, Director of Cybersecurity at NSM.
Do you believe that the Russian mining farm in Norway can be used for anything else but crypto mining? Tell us in the comments section below.
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