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Digging Bitcoin Fortune Out of Trash Is Worth $70M to Man

Computer engineer offers to share the spoils, but city doesn't want him tearing up the landfill
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2021 3:54 PM CST

(Newser) – The 7,500 bitcoins James Howells had on an old hard drive were worth about $9 million when he realized he'd thrown the drive into the trash in the summer of 2013. That was bad enough, but the virtual currency now is worth about $273 million, CNN reports. "I had two identical hard drives, and I threw out the wrong one," Howells said. "I have to laugh about it now." He wants to dig up a part of a landfill to find the hard drive, and he thinks he has a plan to ensure everyone wins. Howells would pay the government of Newport, Wales, one-fourth of the treasure's value, more than $70 million. The city could divvy up its share among the population, which Howells said would come to more than $200 per person, "should I find and recover the bitcoins." A hedge fund is backing his search, he said, per the Guardian, so it wouldn't cost Newport anything. The hedge fund would take 50% of the prize, and Howells would keep 25%.

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Howells, a computer engineer, said he has hope the hard drive hasn't deteriorated to the point where the bitcoins wouldn't be accessible. "The outside case might be rusted," he said. "But the inside disk, where the data is stored—there should be a good chance that it still works." But a city spokeswoman sounded weary of the subject. "Newport city council has been contacted a number of times since 2014 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain bitcoins," she said. The cost of the dig "could run into millions of pounds—without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order." The licensing permit doesn't allow a dig, she said, and there'd also be an environment cost to the project. Howells has been so informed, she said. "We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter." (Read more bitcoin stories.)

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