What Stands Between Guy and $127M Bitcoin Fortune: Garbage

James Howells' situation has gotten worse as bitcoin's has improved
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2017 7:50 AM CST
His Bitcoin Are Worth $127M, but There's a Landfill in His Way
In this Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, file photo, a man uses a Bitcoin ATM in Hong Kong.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

When covering the story four years ago, Newser's headline read, "$7.5M Bitcoin Fortune Buried in Landfill." That fortune ended up in a Welsh landfill after James Howells threw out a hard drive over that summer while cleaning up his workspace. On it was the cryptographic "private key" he needed to access his 7,500 Bitcoins—which are now worth far, far more. With bitcoin valued at roughly $17,000 as of Wednesday, those 7,500 lost bitcoins are worth more than $127 million, reports CNBC. He tells the Telegraph that he hasn't "sat here crying about it, accidents happen." But that hasn't deterred him from hoping he'll one day get to go searching at the Newport landfill, something the Newport City Council currently won't allow.

It would be a novel undertaking: "A landfill has never been excavated in the UK before" for non-criminal reasons, he says, "so we’re in uncharted territory with regards to regulations, local authorities and environmental agencies." And there are plenty of risks, from deadly gases to the possibility of landfill fires, not to mention the cost. But "the higher the value goes, the more chance I have to recover it," he says. Wired spoke with a rep from the city council, and the upshot isn't too optimistic, with the rep citing the huge costs of doing the excavating and storing the waste, plus the "huge environmental impact on the surrounding area"—and after all that, the hard drive might not be found or usable, though Howells has brushed off naysayers who argue the drive would be destroyed by corrosion at this point. (Read about a bitcoin crime.)

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