I once accidentally threw my car keys in the trash and had to go dumpster diving for them. But that is nothing compared to the mistake a UK man recently made.
James Howells, 35, said he mistakenly put a hard drive with 7,500 bitcoins in the trash while clearing out his home years ago. The Brit is now asking local city officials to let him search once again for it in a landfill site. I do not blame him. Howells told CNBC that at today’s prices, the 7,500 would be worth more than $280 million in bitcoin!
Can he get the bitcoin money back?
He says the only way to regain access to it would be through the hard drive he threw in the trash eight years ago. 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 he mistakenly put the one containing the cryptographic “private key” in the trash. He needs the private key to access and spend his bitcoins.
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 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.”
But he needs permission from his local council to search the dump where he believes trash buried the hardware. The landfill is not open to the public, and trespassing would be a criminal offense.
Howells has offered to donate 25% of the bitcoin — worth around $70.8 million — to a “COVID-19 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.
Sponsored offer >> Don’t be like this guy. Seek financial assistance from the pros
What does the city say?
But the Newport City Council has so far rejected his requests to look through the landfill. The city has cited 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, “We have told Mr. Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licensing permit and the excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.” Adding, 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.”
It sounds like the quest for the coins would make for a great reality show. Maybe Howells should contact the Lagina Brothers and the producers of “The Curse of Oak Island.”