ROCKDALE — Late last decade, the town of Rockdale appeared on the verge of economic ruin. The Alcoa aluminum plant here, which provided nearly 1,000 jobs, closed in 2008. The Luminant coal-fueled power plant shut down in 2017.
But now a new industry has come to the town of about 5,300.
North America’s largest bitcoin mine — owned and operated by Whinstone U.S. — sits just down the road from the old aluminum plant, about 60 miles northeast of Austin. The facility, which has added about 145 jobs, hasn’t fully filled the void created by Alcoa. But Whinstone U.S., which is owned by Riot Blockchain, is fast working to become a staple of the community: It helped rebuild the local dog shelter. It installed lights at the high school softball and football fields. It bought the town’s 32-foot-tall Christmas tree. Rockdale Mayor John King noted the company funds livestreaming for the high school sports events and donates fireworks for graduation.