News about bitcoin mining is littered with climate change narratives and mentions of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards. But how often do bitcoin miners talk about these topics?

This article examines the corporate filings from a select few public mining companies to compare how frequently they mention ESG- and environmental-related terms with other natural and sometimes competing priorities: cheap and efficient energy usage.

What the filings say

Mentions of ‘efficiency’ and variations of it far outnumbered mentions of ESG- and environmental-related terms (e.g., green, clean, climate).

The chart below shows data from the past four quarterly earnings reports of Riot Blockchain (RIOT), Marathon Digital Holdings (MARA), Hut 8 Mining Corp. (HUT), and Bitfarms Ltd (BITF).

Word Use Frequency in Public Mining Company Earnings Reports

“Efficient” and “efficiency” outnumber all mentions of popular environmental- and ESG-related terms. Although mining CEOs undoubtedly discuss these ideas, based on the language in their filings, the primary focus of mining companies is by far the efficiency of their mining farms, not language relating to the ESG narrative present in so many mainstream media headlines. Also, increasing mining efficiency can by extension reduce any negative environmental impacts by minimizing energy loss and waste.

HUT 8 mining was the only company to explicitly mention ESG objectives. But those objectives still had efficiency in mind. In April 2021, the company entered into an agreement with Validus Power Corp, securing new power for an industrial scale energy generation project.

A portion of the energy produced for the project will be generated from captured waste gas and converted into electricity. This project demonstrates that bitcoin’s protocol incentivizes sustainability because it allows waste to be repurposed for value generation (mining).

The objective to acquire and deploy the most efficient ASICs is also a dominant theme in corporate reports.

  • For example, in May 2020, Marathon purchased 700 new M30S+ASIC miners to replace their less-efficient Bitmain models.
  • Bitfarms also notes: “Our efforts continue towards achieving greater scale by adding best in class miners and pushing operational efficiency”. They also operate 5 centers powered by clean and competitively priced hydroelectricity.
  • Riot blockchain increased their operational efficiency and scope of mining operations through purchase agreements with Bitmain in 2020 and 2021, acquiring an additional 33,646 and 43,500 antminers, respectively.
  • Riot also continues to expand the scope of its mining operations through their acquisition of Whinstone.

The bottom line

Incentives for cheap and efficient energy are inherent to the entire bitcoin mining industry. A miner is just another type of node; they will enforce the rules and mine efficiently or become unprofitable and insolvent. No matter how many headlines are written with environmental buzzwords, the content of corporate earnings reports show mining CEOs are more focused on efficiency and thus profitability.