Hard Drive With 7,500 Bitcoin Buried in Landfill. Can It Be Dug Up?

In 2013 a British man accidentally threw away a hard drive that contained 7,500 bitcoin. Today it'd be worth over $350 million, reports CNBC: His name is James Howells. He's an IT worker from Wales... He once told NBC News, "It is soul-destroying, to be honest... Every second of the day I am thinking about what could've been." In a last-ditch effort earlier this year, Howells offered his local town tens of millions of dollars to help him find it. By "find it," he means "digging through his local dump" (where the hard drive ended up). The New Yorker reported that this spring Howell finally got a meeting with two city officials, one of whom was responsible for the city's waste and sanitation services. But after he'd delivered his home-made PowerPoint presentation over Zoom, he says their response was, "You know, Mr. Howells, there is absolutely zero appetite for this project to go ahead within Newport City Council." When the meeting ended, she said that she would call him if the situation changed. Months of silence followed. (A spokesperson for the city council told me that the official permit for the site does not allow "excavation work....") "The total area we want to dig is two hundred and fifty metres by two hundred and fifty metres by fifteen metres deep," Howells told me, with excitement. "It's forty thousand tons of waste. It's not impossible, is it?" The New Yorker also reports that in mid-November Howells got a second response from the local city officials — declining to authorize his landfill digging yet again, calling it "environmentally risky." The incident raises the question as to whether there should be a better way to recover lost cryptocoins — but Howells himself remains opposed to that. So meanwhile Howells keeps checking a phone app telling him how much his bitcoin would be worth if he hadn't thrown away the hard drive. One day, he watched its value swing by $20 million.

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