A British man is offering to give his city $70m if they let him search a landfill site for a discarded hard drive, which he claims has almost $300m worth of bitcoin stored on it.
James Howells from Newport in south Wales claims he mistakenly threw away the hard disk with 7,500 bitcoins on it, according to a report on the BBC. With Bitcoins currently worth around $38,000 each, that missing hard disk could be worth the best part of $300m.
There’s one major problem, however. He didn’t chuck out the drive last week, but seven years ago.
Howells threw the hard disk away in 2013, having believed that he had transferred the bitcoin wallet to a new computer. He put the hard drive in the bin and took the bags to a local landfill site.
A few months later, Howells realized he had made a massive mistake. “When I started to hear stories of the Silk Road shutdown and other individuals making their profits and their millions, the penny dropped then that I had 7,500 bitcoins on a hard drive that I had thrown out a few months ago,” he told the BBC.
Howells has been begging Newport City Council to let him search the landfill site since 2013, but the council has – perhaps unsurprisingly – refused him permission.
Seven years on, Howells has upped the ante, offering the council 25% of the proceeds to put towards a Covid relief fund, if they let him employ a professional team to search the site.
Don’t start the search
The council, alas, are not willing to let Howells embark on a wild goose chase for a hard disk that was buried seven years ago. “Newport City Council has been contacted a number of times since 2013 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain bitcoins,” it told the BBC.
“The council has told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licensing 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.”
Indeed, although hard disks can prove remarkably robust, the chances of finding the disk and its glass platters intact are – to put it mildly – rubbish.