$7.5M Bitcoin Fortune Buried in Landfill

A digital ‘wallet’ with 7,500 Bitcoins is lost under four feet of rubbish.

The 7,500 units of the now famous digital currency on the hard drive were worth around £500,000 when it was thrown in the rubbish. And now their value has significantly increased. Photo: RecycleforShrop-shire/Flickr

Buried somewhere under four feet of rubbish, in the Docksway landfill site not far from Newport, Wales, there is a computer hard drive worth more than $7.5 million.

The fortune belongs to James Howells, who threw it the device occasionally when he was clearing up his room last summer and discovered the part, rescued from a defunct Dell laptop. He found it in a drawer and throw it out.

The poor guy realized last Friday that the thrown hard disk held a digital wallet with 7,500 Bitcoins created for almost nothing in 2009 – and then worth about the same.

“You know when you put something in the bin, and in your head, say to yourself ‘that’s a bad idea’? I really did have that,” Howells, who works in IT, told reporters.

“I don’t have an exact date, the only time period I can give – and I’ve been racking my own brains – is between 20 June and 10 August. Probably mid-July”.

Thus, it appears that the Howells threw them away, the 7,500 Bitcoins on the hard-drive were worth around $820,000. Since then, the cryptocurrency’s value has soared, passing $1,000 on Wednesday afternoon.

The man generated his fortune back in 2009, when this type of currency was only known in tech circles. Then it was quite easy to “mine” the digital money, effectively creating it by computing: Howells ran a program on his laptop for a week to generate his stash.

By the way, in order to do it today one will need enormously expensive computing power.

“That lost hard drive, though, contains the cryptographic “private key” that is needed to be able to access and spend the Bitcoins; without it, the “money” is lost forever. And Howells didn’t have a backup,” writes The Guardian.

However, Howells stopped mining after his girlfriend complained that the notebook was creating too much noises and was getting hot while it ran the programs to solve the complex mathematical problems needed to create new Bitcoins.

Howells didn’t realise his mistake until Friday. Since then, he said, “I’ve searched high and low. I’ve tried to retrieve files from all of my USB sticks, from all of my hard drives. I’ve tried everything just in case I had a backup file, or had copied it by accident. And … nothing.”

He even went down to the landfill site itself. “I had a word with one of the guys down there, explained the situation. And he actually took me out in his truck to where the landfill site is, the current ditch they’re working on. It’s about the size of a football field, and he said something from three or four months ago would be about three or four feet down.”

The man even tried to find the hard drive himself, but he was told that “even for the police to find something, they need a team of 15 guys, two diggers, and all the personal protection equipment. So for me to fund that, it’s not possible without the guarantee of money at the end.”

As such, he’s resigned to never getting the virtual money back.

“I’m at the point where it’s either laugh about it or cry about it,” Howells now says. “Why aren’t I out there with a shovel now? I think I’m just resigned to never being able to find it.”

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