In the history of regretting throwing away valuable things perceived as useless, James Howells has secured one of the most prestigious spots. He is guilty of accidentally throwing away a hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins worth. The 35-year-old is offering his city 25 per cent of the value stored in the hard drive for permission to search the city’s landfill.
The IT worker from Newport in the UK claimed he unintentionally threw away a hard disk that contained 7,500 units of cryptocurrency in 2013, when the value of the cryptocurrency was not even close to what it is fetching today. Fast forward to current day price of close to $37,000, his stock is worth the range of up to $275 million.
Now, the Wales local has offered his city council a vast sum of money if it allows him to excavate a landfill site where he believes the hard drive has been disposed of. He has offered to donate almost $72 million to the city of Newport should he find and recover the Bitcoins.
The digital currency was created in 2009 by an anonymous computer programmer or group of programmers known as Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoins are essentially computer files that are stored in a “digital wallet” on your device. They can then be used as payment, with every transaction being recorded in a public list known as blockchain.
Howells had mined the Bitcoin over the course of four years when cryptocurrencies were still in their infancy and worth very little. Howells threw the hard drive away between June and August 2013, believing he had already backed up the files he needed from it. He first realized his mistake when the price of Bitcoin spiked from $150 to $1000 and his wallet was worth around $6 million.
After discovering the mistake, Howells went to the garbage dump to see where the hard drive might have ended up. At that time, he realized looking for the drive would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
However, he now believes he knows how to retrieve it. “The plan would be to dig a specific area of the landfill based on a grid reference system and recover the hard drive whilst adhering to all safety and environmental standards,” he told CNN. “The drive would then be presented to data recovery specialists who can rebuild the drive from scratch with new parts and attempt to recover the tiny piece of data that I need in order to access the bitcoins.”
However, in a statement, a Newport City Council spokeswoman said it was not allowed to excavate the site. She said: “The council has told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.The cost of digging up the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds — without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order.”