Man offers local govt $71 million to find lost hard drive with 7,500 bitcoins in UK

Most people don’t regret throwing away trash but in this unusual case from the United Kingdom, there is every reason to regret, sob and laugh a little. A computer engineer is offering his local government USD 71 million to find his lost hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins. worth USD 285 million.

James Howell, 35, had accidentally thrown away his hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins worth USD 285 million in 2013. 

“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,” he told TechSpot. 

He used to mine bitcoins back in 2009 when the cryptocurrency had no value. After a while, he gave up mining as his girlfriend was irritated with the noise of the bitcoin mining. He started to sell all the equipment but held on to the hard drive which contained his private key. A private key in bitcoin is a secret number that is used when a person wants to transfer his bitcoins. 

The drive has ended up in a general waste bin, a landfill in Newport, South Wales. He has repeatedly asked the Newport city council to help him find his drive and has even offered them a 25 percent cut of 71 million from the 285 million worth of bitcoins. 

However, the biggest concern is whether a hard drive which has been lost for eight years will work upon finding. 

“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,” he said. “But the longer this drags on, though, it’s less likely to be a possibility,” he said.

Howells said that a hedge fund has decided to back the project so that the council doesn’t spend anything. 

He also explained that in 2013 the general waste bin was full. Each bin was given a serial number and was buried in an open pit. It was also given a grid reference of the buried location. 

“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,” he said. 

A spokesperson of Newport city council said that the council has been contacted a number of times since 2014 for the lost hard drive but the process of finding it could run into millions of pounds. 

“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,” Newport city council spokesperson said. 

“Even if we were able to agree to his request, there is the question of who would meet the cost of 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,” he added.