Man who binned a Bitcoin hard disk worth £230m wants to dig it up from landfill

A man who binned a hard drive containing Bitcoin now worth £230m has offered to share his wealth with people in the Welsh city where he lives if he is allowed to search a landfill site for the hard disk.

James Howells is an IT worker and early adopter of Bitcoin from Newport in Wales, he claims that he unintentionally got rid of the hard disk back in 2013. He said that he started “mining” bitcoin in 2009, using his computer to solve complex mathematical problems to earn rewards.

James said he has gained the support of a hedge fund which would finance his plan to excavate the landfill site near Docks Way, in Newport. But he said he has been unable to obtain permission to execute his plan.

The council has told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under their licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.

James spoke to the BBC back in 2013 and told them he had dismantled his computer after spilling a drink on it.

“I stored a couple of parts away like the hard drive, and the rest of the bits and pieces which were still working I sold for spares,” he told BBC Radio Wales.

“I kept the hard drive in a drawer in my office for three years without a second thought – totally forgot about bitcoin all together. I had been distracted by family life and moving house.

“Fast forward to 2013 which is when I had a clearout of my old IT equipment – I hadn’t used this drive for over three years, I believed I’d taken everything off it… so it got thrown in the bin.”

Mr Howells later realised what was left on the hard drive.

He added: “I had been hearing a few stories of a chap from Norway who had bought a number of coins for a very low price and had sold them for a high price and that’s when I got back into checking the price and seeing what I’d done.

“When I found out what the price was, the penny dropped and I realised the coins I have ‘mined’ were on the drive I had thrown away. There was not a lot I could do.”

Mr Howells checked all of his back up files but could not locate the coins so went to the landfill site in south Wales.

“When I went to the tip the manager took me up to the current landfill site and when I saw it – it’s about the size of a football field – my first thought was ‘no chance’,” he said.

“The manager explained that things that were sent to landfill three or four months ago could be three to five feet deep. He confirmed my worst fears when he said that.”

“He did mention that when people were investigating for evidence, they turn up with 15 to 20 people in full protective gear with diggers and dogs as well. The truth is I haven’t got the funds or ability to make that happen at the moment without a definite pay cheque at the end of it.”

The story again made the news in 2017 when the Bitcoin on the missing hard disk was estimated to be worth $85,125,000 (£63,284,463).

Duncan Newell

Duncan is a technology professional with over 20 years experience of working in various IT roles. He has a interest in cyber security, and has a wide range of other skills in radio, electronics and telecommunications.

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