Man offers city $72M to dig up accidentally discarded Bitcoin fortune

James Howells, the owner of a discarded hard drive with 7,500 Bitcoin (BTC), has made a fresh plea to excavate a landfill site and possibly recover the device.

Back in 2013, Howells accidentally threw away a hard drive containing 7,500 BTC while cleaning his house. The Bitcoin stash came from Howell’s mining activity back when it was still possible to use CPUs to mine Bitcoin/

By November 2013, the Bitcoin  in the hard drive was already worth $6.5 million and Howell has been trying to recover it ever since.

Now, according to Newport daily tabloid, the South Wales Argus, Holler has tendered a fresh appeal for the right to excavate a landfill site in the city.

Following successive rejections by the Newport city council, Howells has upped the ante, offering up 25% of the value of the lost Bitcoin as a COVID-19 relief donation to the city. At the current price of Bitcoin, the hard drive holds almost $290 million, meaning the city could earn about $72 million if the drive is recovered successfully.

According to Howells, all he needs is access to the landfill records to identify the exact grid location of the hard drive for a targeted search of the facility. The IT engineer also revealed that the search team would create an air-tight seal to prevent the release of poisonous landfill gases while excavating.

Commenting on the possibility of being able to recover useful data from the hard drive, Howells remarked:

“There is no guarantee of that [it still working] because of the environment it’s been in, but there are things that give me confidence. The outside case might be rusted. But the inside disk, where the data is stored, there should be a good chance that it still works. I believe there still will be a chance. But the longer this drags on though, it’s less likely to be a possibility.”

However, Newport city council officials say the environmental risks associated with the excavation are significant given the likelihood of the exercise not yielding any fruit. Should the data be unrecoverable, council officials say the city would be left to foot the bill.

Meanwhile, Howells says he is prepared to commit funds to an escrow account to cover the excavation costs.

Howells is one of many Bitcoin owners to have lost access to their funds over the years. In 2012, Campbell Simpson, a former Gizmodo editor also discarded a hard drive holding 1,400 BTC, now worth $53.6 million.

From lost private keys, to mistakenly sending BTC to burn addresses, as much as 20% of the current circulating supply may be lost forever. Indeed, data from crypto analytics provider Chainalysis and on-chain aggregator Glassnode puts the number of lost Bitcoin between 3 million and 3.7 million “coins.”

Recently, a student was fortunate to recover the private keys to a wallet holding 127 BTC worth $4.8 million.

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