Bitcoin, a highly volatile and virtual currency created in 2009, has seen a sudden surge in its price since the start of 2017. Recently, the bitcoin breached the $14,000 mark bringing joy to many of the cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
However, an ‘accidental’ mistake of dumping a hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins has cost a Newport-based IT worker a fortune of over $105 million. Now, the Welsh IT worker wants to dig up his fortune which is likely buried deep below 200,000 tons of garbage on a landfill site near his home in Newport, Wales.
The story dates back to 2013, when James Howells who had been mining cryptocurrency on his computer since 2009 to solve complex mathematical problems and earn rewards, dismantled the device after spilling a drink on it.
“After I had stopped mining, the laptop I had used was broken into parts and sold on eBay. However, I kept the hard drive in a drawer at home knowing it contained my Bitcoin private keys, so that if Bitcoin did become valuable one day I would still have the coins I had mined,” he told the Telegraph.
“In mid-2013 during a clear-out, the hard drive – then worth a few hundred thousand pounds – was mistakenly thrown out and put into a general waste bin at my local landfill site, after which it was buried on site.”
The hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins in his drawer that he threw out that time were worth around $700,000. If today’s value of bitcoin (at the time of writing) is to be considered, Howells would have amount of $119,501,925 USD at his disposal.
“I’m always aware of the bitcoin price,” Howells told Newsweek. “I always knew this [the price rising] was going to happen…. In my opinion, bitcoin hasn’t had its Facebook moment yet. Imagine the price when it does. That would make my hard drive worth $1 billion or more.”
While Howells has made several requests to the local council to dig and salvage the hard drive at the site, he has yet to be granted permission to look for the missing treasure.
“I haven’t actually tried to search for the hard drive yet as I haven’t been given permission to look despite having financial backing in place and engaging the local council a number of times,” Howells said. “Digging up a landfill is not as easy as just digging a hole in the ground.”
In order to allow him permission, Howells is offering the council a 10 percent cut of the total value of the bitcoins.
He said: “How can they leave $100 million (USD) in the ground when making cuts to services left right and centre? My investors have even offered to put a sum of money into a bank ‘bond’ just in case we mess it up, the council can access this money to fix it properly themselves.”
“I’ve also told them I would adhere to all safety standards when digging and also put the site back to its original condition when finished. They are not interested in helping at all because the people in charge have never given me the chance to explain the details and the exact situation to them.”
A Newport City Council spokesman said: “Newport City Council has been contacted in the past about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain Bitcoins.
“However, the cost of digging up the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds — without any guarantee of either finding the hardware or it still being in working order.
“The council has told the individual concerned on several occasions that excavation is not possible under our licencing permit, added to the fact excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.
“The landfill section of HWRC (Household Waste Recycling Centre) is not accessible to the public as it is a permitted facility with conditions that include security and prevention of illegal access to the facility regulated by NRW (National Resources Wales), therefore any potential treasure hunters could not access the site and would be committing a criminal offence.
“The landfill contains around 350,000 tonnes of waste with an annual input of 50,000 tonnes.
“It is likely that the hardware would have suffered significant Galvanic corrosion due to the presence of landfill leachates and gasses.”
Howells who calls himself as a “Bitcoin Pioneer,” and “Bitcoin Cash Proponent” on Twitter, says that he will not give up on his search.
On December 2, 2017, he tweeted a diagram of a modern landfill and replaced the caption with “Bitcoin cold storage vault.”
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