- James Howells, 35, said he mistakenly put a hard drive with 7,500 bitcoins in the trash while clearing out his home in 2013.
- At today’s prices, that haul would be worth more than $280 million.
- He needs permission from his local council to search a garbage dump he believes contains the lost hardware.
- The Newport City Council has rejected his requests to look through the landfill, citing environmental and funding concerns.
LONDON — A British man who accidentally threw out a hard drive with a trove of bitcoin on it is once again urging local city officials to let him search for it in a landfill site.
James Howells, a 35-year-old IT engineer from Newport, Wales, said he discarded the device while clearing out his home in 2013. He claims he had two identical laptop hard drives, and that he mistakenly put the one containing the cryptographic “private key” needed to access and spend his bitcoins in the trash.
After all these years, Howells is still confident he’d be able to recover the bitcoin. Though the external part of the hard drive may be damaged and rusted, he believes the glass platter inside may still be intact.
“There is a good chance the platter inside the drive is still intact,” he told CNBC. “Data recovery experts could then rebuild the drive or read the data directly from the platter.”
Howells says he had 7,500 bitcoins which, at today’s prices, would be worth more than $280 million. He says the only way to regain access to it would be through the hard drive he threw in the trash eight years ago.
But he needs permission from his local council to search a garbage dump he believes contains the lost hardware. The landfill is not open to the public and trespassing would be considered a criminal offense.
Howells has offered to donate 25% of the haul — worth around $70.8 million — to a “Covid Relief Fund” for his home city if he manages to dig up the hard drive. He has also promised to fund the excavation project with the backing of an unnamed hedge fund.
But the Newport City Council has so far rejected his requests to look through the landfill, citing environmental and funding concerns. And it doesn’t seem like local officials are about to budge anytime soon.
“As far as I am aware they have already rejected the offer,” Howells said. “Without even having heard our plan of action or without being given a chance to present our mitigations to their concerns regarding the environment, it’s just a straight up ‘no’ every time.”
A spokesperson for the council told CNBC it had been “contacted a number of times since 2013 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain bitcoins,” the first being “several months” after Howells first realized the drive had gone missing.