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UK IT engineer offers council $72 million to search for lost bitcoin treasure in dumpsites

  • A Newport man offers the council 25% of his lost bitcoin holdings if granted the permit to search for them.
  • The man has the hacking of a hedge fund to fund the search process that could cost millions.
  • Even if the hard-drive is found, there are chances that the bitcoins may still be unrecoverable.

Every treasure, physical or digital, is worth looking for even if the odds are stacked against you. A man who mistakenly threw away his bitcoin holdings seven years ago is back in the hunt and is offering an incentive to the authorities.

James Howells, a 35-year-old IT engineer in Newport mistakenly threw away a hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins instead of an empty hard drive he meant to get rid of.

After realizing his costly mistake, Howells asked the council permission to search the site but his request has not been granted. To push for approval, the engineer is offering 25% (around $72 million) of his lost bitcoin holdings in the form of a Covid Relief Fund for the residents in the city.

7,500 BTC is too much to lose

7,500 bitcoins (approximately $290 million) is a lot of money to leave lying around in a landfill site and Howell is willing to take his chances despite the huge task of locating the hard drive, and the possibility that even if he finds it, it may no longer be working.

The way the landfill operated in 2013 was when a general waste bin was full, it was given a serial number, it was dragged off to the open pit and it was buried. It was also given a grid reference number,” said Howell.

Howell is convinced that if he is given access to landfill records and possibly identifies the week he mistakenly got rid of the hard drive; he can identify the serial number of the bin that the hard drive was in and eventually identify where the grid reference is located.

He says he wants to sit down with the authorities and present to them the action plan of what he wants to do. There is a hedge fund willing to provide the funds required for the search

Howell wants to concentrate the search on one specific area. He is also confident that he will be able to recover the bitcoins despite the time the hard-drive has been buried.

“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,” said Howell.

The city has acknowledged that it has been contacted multiple times since 2014 to retrieve the lost bitcoins. 

However, the city has held back on approving the search because the cost could run into millions, and there is no guarantee that the bitcoins will be recovered. The council also argues that they cannot grant excavation licenses due to the huge impact on the environment and surroundings.

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