The small Swiss mountain town of Gondo traces its origins to the 17th-century gold mines of Kaspar Stockalper.
A few years ago Gondo began to attract a new kind of prospector—cryptocurrency miners who use graphics cards like these to mine for bitcoin, ethereum, and other digital currencies.
The first miners to arrive were a group of young Swiss businessmen whose company, Alpine Tech, built a windowless bunker fitted out with 900 graphics cards.
Last year, Italian photographer Claudio Cerasoli made a series of visits to Gondo to document Alpine Tech’s operations, as well as abandoned gold mines like this one.
When Gondo’s gold mines closed in the late 1800s, the town went into a long decline; today it has around 50 full-time residents.
“From the beginning, I was fascinated by the similar terminology used in cryptocurrency and gold mining,” Cerasoli says. “In both cases, despite the sophisticated technologies involved, there are small-scale, artisanal techniques to discover.”
“Both gold miners in the past and these modern miners are motivated by the desire to discover a new world,” Cerasoli says. “And they both had to create innovative ways to achieve their purpose.”
Alpine Tech’s concrete bunker is cooled by a dozen plastic tubes that pump 30,000 cubic meters of chilled air into the space every hour.
For the series, called The Gold of Gondo, Cerasoli juxtaposes photographs of blockchain computing with images of abandoned gold mines, prompting viewers to wonder what, in a hundred years, will remain of Alpine Tech’s gold strike.
This portrait depicts Kaspar Stockalper, whose gold mines gave birth to Gondo in the 17th century.
These implements were used to dig for gold in Gondo before the closing of the mines in the late 19th century.
Mining cryptocurrency is extremely energy intensive; an online tool built by University of Cambridge researchers estimates that the annual worldwide energy consumption of bitcoin alone equals that of Switzerland—the country that, coincidentally, has become something of a cryptocurrency mecca.