British man who accidentally threw out his device that contains $280M in Bitcoin begs Govt for help to search landfill site

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A British man who accidentally threw out a hard drive with a trove of bitcoin worth $280 million in current value is begging local city officials to allow him search for it in a landfill site, promising to donate 25% of the value to the city’s “Covid Relief Fund” if he finds it.

James Howells,35, said he accidentally tossed the hard drive which contains 7,500 bitcoins in 2013 while clearing out his home.

Bitcoins have surged in value in recent months, reaching a record $42,000 per dollar before pulling back sharply. Analysts believe the price will fly again like a rocket past $42,000.

Howells, an IT engineer from Newport, Wales, believes he can still recover the bitcoins if the device is found even if the external part of the hard drive is damaged and rusted.

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“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,” he said.

But the landfill site is not open to the public and trespassing would be considered a criminal offense. The Newport City Council had since turned down Howells requests to search the garbage dump, citing environmental and funding concerns.

Howells is not relenting in his request and has offered to fund the excavation cost with the backing of an unnamed hedge fund. He believes he can find the hardware lost 8 years ago if only the city officials allow him search the dumping ground. But there is no sign the city will ever grant his request.

“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.”

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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 was missing.

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

“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.”

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We previously reported a similar incident about a San Francisco man who can’t figure out his password to access his $240 million worth of bitcoin. He said he’s “made peace” with the loss, believing he will never gain access to his fortune. Stefan Thomas tried 8 of the maximum 10 attempts allowed to unlock a small hard drive that contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds his 7,002 Bitcoins without success. Read the story here

Bitcoin’s network is decentralized, meaning it isn’t controlled by a single individual but a network of computers. Each transaction originates from a wallet which has a “private key.” This is a digital signature and provides mathematical proof that the transaction has come from the owner of the wallet.