Blockchain This Week – El Salvador Legalizes Bitcoin, UNICEF Bolsters Blockchain Startups, Square Targets Green Mining

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El Salvador – The First Country to Accept Bitcoin as Legal Tender

El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt Bitcoin as a legal tender. The country’s lawmakers rallied behind their president, Nayib Bukele, to vote by a “supermajority” of 62 out of 84 votes in favor of Bitcoin legislation. As a result, prices can now be quoted, and tax contributions can be made in Bitcoin.

UNICEF Invests in Blockchain Startups

UNICEF is investing in seven Blockchain startups from six countries with its Venture Fund. With this investment, UNICEF aims financial inclusion of those who are kept out of the current ecosystem. The seven firms based in Kenya, Argentina, India, Mexico, Rwanda, and Nepal will each receive up to US $100,000 in seed funding. Remarkably, five of these startups are led by women.

Blockchain Platform to Tokenize Solar Energy

Austria-based Blockchain-based token management firm, RIDDLE&CODE, has built an energy tokenization platform – MyPower – along with Austrian energy provider Wien Energie. MyPower tokenizes the electricity generated using solar panels. Customers can buy shares of solar panel plants. In return, they receive tokens representing the energy produced in the plant, which they can redeem while paying their electricity bills.

Square Sponsors Solar-Powered Bitcoin Mining

Square, digital payments firm of Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, is collaborating with crypto firm Blockstream to promote a green Bitcoin mining project. Square is investing $5 million in a solar powered mining facility of Blockstream.

One River Digital’s Carbon Neutral Bitcoin Investing

One River Digital Asset Management, a hedge fund focusing on crypto, announced this week that a majority of assets in its existing institutional Bitcoin Fund have chosen to switch to One River’s new carbon neutrality share class. One River has created an option for its institutional investors to invest in crypto assets while offsetting the carbon emissions of crypto mining. To this effect, it has developed an index (BTC.X) based on the estimated carbon emitted per Bitcoin and the market price of the offset required to neutralize that emission.

El Salvador’s Crypto Mining Powered by Volcanoes

El Salvador and its president Nayib Bukele featured in crypto news yet again this week. This time, President Bukele announced on Twitter that he had instructed the president of La Geo, a state-owned geothermal electric company, to put up a plan for bitcoin mining facilities that harness energy from the country’s volcanoes. He followed it with another tweet where he mentioned that his engineers “dug a new well that will provide approximately 95MW of 100% clean, 0 emissions geothermal energy from our volcanos.” He intends to build a full bitcoin mining hub around that well.

FBI Recovers Bitcoin Ransom Paid by Colonial Pipeline

This week, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has recovered 63.7 Bitcoin worth over $2 million from the Russian hacker ring, DarkSide. These Bitcoins were paid as ransom by a major US oil and gas pipeline Colonial in response to an attack that led to its shutdown for 11 days. The feds reportedly obtained the warrant to gain access to the private keys of a digital wallet that held the Bitcoin collected by the hackers. 

Improving American Healthcare System With Blockchain

A group of healthcare and tech firms launched a Blockchain network named Avaneer Health. It is an extension of the healthcare consortium Health Utility Network and aims to use Blockchain to improve health care. Several companies, including Aetna, Anthem, Cleveland Clinic, IBM, and PNC Financials, are part of this network.

Ledger Attains Unicorn Status

Paris-based crypto hardware wallet manufacturer Ledger has raised $380 million in a Series C fundraising round. Equity investment firm 10T Holdings led 10T the round, alongside additional investments from investors including Cathay Innovation, Draper Associates, Draper Dragon, Draper Esprit, DCG, and Wicklow Capital. The company’s implied valuation is more than $1.5 billion, placing it in the billion-dollar “unicorn” club.

CBDC Trials Commence in Shanghai

This week, the Chinese city of Shanghai announced the launch of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) trial. The Shanghai pilot will involve 350,000 people, who will receive red envelopes, each containing 55 yuan during the city’s Happy Shopping event. They would have to spend their “gifts” between June 11 and June 20.

China’s Crypto Crackdown Continues

This week, Chinese police arrested over 1,000 people on money-laundering charges, alleging they used cryptocurrency to evade the law. Moreover, the local government of Changji in Xinjiang reportedly ordered the miners at the Zhundong Economic Technological Development Park to stop their mining activities. Similarly, Qinghai province has announced a ban on digital currency mining operations. Furthermore, several internet service providers, including Baidu and Weibo, have supposedly started censoring keywords associated with crypto exchanges such as Binance, Huobi, and OKEx. Additionally, Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent for Twitter, has banned scores of crypto and DeFi related accounts from its platform. 

French and Swiss National Banks Collaborate on CBDC Trial

The Bank of France and the Swiss National Bank are working together on a cross-border central bank digital currency (CBDC) experiment dubbed “Project Jura.” The project will explore cross-border settlements of two wholesale CBDCs and a French digital financial instrument on a Blockchain platform.

Denmark to Revamp Its Tax Code

Denmark’s Ministry of Taxation is reportedly examining its close to a century-old tax code to address the crypto related taxation challenges. This move comes after the ministry discovered that over two-thirds of the local crypto transactions are not taxed correctly.

Berkshire Hathaway Invests in Brazilian Digital Bank

Warren Buffet owned Berkshire Hathaway has invested over $500 million in Brazilian digital bank Nubank. The bank announced that it would use the money to continue its international expansion.

Gold Backed Tokens

International bullion trading company AgaBullion and UK-based fintech firm Aurus Technologies have teamed up to offer gold-backed AurusGOLD ERC-20 tokens in the Turkish market. Investors who buy AurusGOLD would indirectly be owning equivalent amounts of LBMA-accredited gold. AurusGOLD is minted and traded on Aurus’s Blockchain platform.

Blockchain for Aircraft Maintenance

Korean airline Jeju Air and LG CNS, the IT services subsidiary of LG Corporation, are collaborating to explore Blockchain use cases for the aviation industry. Their first initiative is to leverage Blockchain to provide trackable and verifiable records of aircraft replacement parts.

IBM Open Sources Its Hyperledger Code Contribution

IBM announced this week that it had donated updates to the Hyperledger code and the underlying code for the IBM Blockchain Platform Console. Furthermore, it has open sourced the code that supports token exchanges on Hyperledger Fabric and the Fabric Token SDK. Besides, IBM is also offering support to Hyperledger Fabric users who might not be IBM Blockchain customers.

AWS Is Looking for Blockchain Expert With DeFi Experience

Amazon’s cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services, is looking for a Head of Product to lead its Managed Blockchain unit. What makes the job posting interesting is the fact that the potential candidate is expected to have experience in decentralized finance (DeFi).

Fetch.ai and Iota Data Sharing Partnership

AI research firm Fetch.ai and Iota Distributed Technology network are working together to set up a “controlled data sharing environment” for connected devices. This initiative enables various sectors, including healthcare, mobility, and energy, to share their data across IoT networks. Iota’s Tangle technology will underpin the communications and payments among the devices.

MicroStrategy to Sell $500 Million Worth of Notes

This week, the business intelligence firm MicroStrategy announced its intent to offer $500 million worth of senior secured notes due 2028. It will bear an interest of 6.125% per annum and be sold in a private offering to qualified institutional buyers. The net proceeds would be used to acquire additional Bitcoin.

And Finally, Phillips to Accept Crypto for Artwork

Phillips, the 225-year-old British auction house, follows Christie’s and Sotheby’s in providing the patrons the option to pay in Ether and Bitcoin, in addition to dollars. Phillips will accept crypto for an upcoming auction of artist Banky’s work that depicts a monkey with a sandwich board that says, “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge.”

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