Engineer says £230m Bitcoin fortune sitting at bottom of landfill site

Computer engineer says his £230m Bitcoin fortune is sitting at bottom of landfill site after he threw away hard drive by mistake – now he is offering council £55m if they can dig it up

  • James Howells, 35, is offering Newport Council a quarter of the Bitcoin fortune
  • He accidentally threw out hard drive in 2013 and now says it’s worth over £230m
  • Mr Howells has repeatedly appealed to council for help in recovering machine
  • But council says it is unable to assist him as there is ‘no guarantee’ of finding it 

A computer engineer has said his £230million Bitcoin fortune is sitting at the bottom of a landfill site after he threw away the hard drive by mistake. 

James Howells, 35, is offering his local council more than £55million – a quarter of the wealth – to dig up the rubbish tip in Newport, Wales.

He accidentally threw out the hard drive in 2013 and says it now contains Bitcoin worth more than £230million as the value of the crypto-currency has rocketed. 

He said: ‘There’s pot of gold for someone at the end of the rainbow – and that ends in the landfill site.’

James Howells (pictued above), 35, is offering his local council more than £55million – a quarter of the wealth – to dig up the rubbish tip in Newport, Wales

He was clearing out his office when the hard drive got binned along with a broken laptop, old keyboards, and mice.

James said: ‘I had two identical hard drives and I threw out the wrong one. I know I’m not the only person who has ever thrown out the wrong thing but it usually doesn’t cost people over £200million.

‘I have to laugh about it now because what else can I do?

James has repeatedly appealed to Newport Council for help in recovering the machine. But so far his requests have been refused.

James said: ‘There is going to be a point when the files on that machine are worth more than a billion pounds – the attitude of the council does not compute, it just does not make sense.’

And he believes that even after all this time the hard drive would still be in good enough working order to retrieve the bitcoin files.

James added: ‘There is no guarantee of that 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.’

James, who lives in Newport, offered to give the money to a council Covid relief fund to help struggling families in the city. 

The entrance to the Newport rubbish tip, pictured above. Mr Howells accidentally threw out the hard drive in 2013 and says it now contains Bitcoin worth more than £230million

He says he has received financial backing from a hedgefund to pay for the search so the council is not out of pocket.

James said: ‘It’s quite a lot of money still sat there in the landfill.

‘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.

‘So what that means is, if I could access the landfill records, I could identify the week that I threw the hard drive away; I could identify the serial number of the bin that it was in; and then I could identify where the grid reference is located.

‘I’d like the opportunity to sit down with the decision makers and present to them an action plan for what we want to do. I hope we can get that.

‘I’ve got backing from a hedge fund who are willing to put up the funds for the project.

The total market value of all cryptocurrencies rose above $1 trillion for the first time last Thursday as Bitcoin surged to a record high

‘We only want to search in one specific area. We want to employ an inflatable structure to create an air-tight seal around that area to stop landfill gases escaping.

‘The council won’t be left to foot the bill.’

Newport Council said James had made repeated requests for help – but it was unable to assist him.

A spokeswoman said: ‘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.

‘The first time was several months after Mr Howells first realised the hardware was missing.

‘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.

‘The council has also 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.

‘Even if we were able to agree to his request, there is the question of who would meet the cost if the hard drive was not found or was damaged to such an extent that the data could not be recovered.

‘We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter.’

Value of the cryptocurrency market soars above $1 TRILLION for the first time ever as Bitcoin breaks $40,000 in a 900% jump since March

The total market value of all cryptocurrencies rose above $1 trillion for the first time last Thursday as Bitcoin surged to a record high.

Bitcoin has jumped more than 900 percent from a recent low of $3,850 in March, breaking $40,000 for the first time on Thursday as governments increase spending to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic. 

The massive spending on stimulus has raised fears about rising inflation and U.S. dollar debasement, and investors are flocking to Bitcoin as a safe haven.

The cryptocurrency is also gaining traction with more mainstream investors who are increasingly convinced that Bitcoin will be a long-lasting asset, and not a speculative bubble as some analysts and investors fear.

Bitcoin has jumped more than 900 percent from a recent low of $3,850 in March, breaking $40,000 for the first time last Thursday

Sergey Nazarov, co-founder of Chainlink, a decentralized network that provides data to smart contracts on the blockchain, said that there is a ‘lack of faith in traditional institutions that is driving this large rally towards cryptoassets.’

‘While outsiders may view the cryptocurrency industry being valued at over $1 trillion as an incredibly significant milestone, in actuality our space is still in one of its very early stages of development and growth,’ Nazarov said.

‘Bitcoin continues to defy all expectations, and doubters,’ Antoni Trenchev, co-founder and managing partner of crypto lender Nexo, told Bloomberg. 

‘It’s leaving all other assets trailing in its wake, like it’s done year in, year out for the past decade.’ 

The market cap of all cryptocurrencies rose 10 percent to $1.042 trillion on Thursday, data from CoinMarketCap shows. 

Bitcoin accounts for around 69 percent of the total market cap of the total. It is followed by Ethereum with a 13 percent share. 

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency – an online type of money which is created using computer code.

It was invented in 2009 by someone calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto – a mysterious computer coder who has never been found or identified themselves.

Bitcoins are created without using middlemen – which means no banks take a fee when they are exchanged.

They are stored in what are called virtual wallets known as blockchains which keep track of your money.

One of the selling points is that it can be used to buy things anonymously.

However, this has left the currency open to criticism and calls for tighter regulation as terrorists and criminals have used to it traffic drugs and guns.

How are they created?

Bitcoins are created through a process known as ‘mining’ which involves computers solving difficult maths problems with a 64-digit solution.

Every time a new maths problem is solved a fresh Bitcoin is produced.

Some people create powerful computers for the sole purpose of creating Bitcoins.

But the number which can be produced are limited – meaning the currency should maintain a certain level of value.

Why are they popular?

Some people value Bitcoin because it is a form of currency which cuts out banking middlemen and the Government – a form of peer to peer currency exchange.

And all transactions are recorded publicly so it is very hard to counterfeit.

Its value surged in 2017 – beating the ‘tulip mania’ of the 17th Century and the dot com boom of the early 2000s to be the biggest bubble in history.

But the bubble appears to have now burst and questions remain over what market there is for it long-term.

Some shops and restaurants are accepting for purchases, but overall this is a tiny part of the market of the real economy.

While there are concerns Bitcoins can be hacked. 

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