James Howell is now on a mission to dig up a landfill to retrieve the hard drive that contains his Bitcoin keys
The value of cryptocurrency Bitcoin has skyrocketed and while some believe that the the increase might not be legit or sustainable, it means that many people are, for now, unexpectedly sitting on fortunes. James Howells, an IT worker from Wales, is now a major player in Bitcoin, but in mid-2013 he accidentally dumped 7,500 Bitcoin. Bitcoin was then worth around £96, but it’s now worth £8,435 – meaning that Howells lost over £63 million worth.
Now, he plans to dig up the landfill and retrieve the hard drive that contains his private Bitcoin keys. Howells tells Dazed that he sold his laptop for parts, but he had kept the hard drive – until it was mistakenly thrown out. Now, obviously, sceptics will say that it’s highly unlikely that Howells has any chance whatsoever of retrieving his hard drive. He has to go through an actual landfill (see above). Even if he knows the exact landfill, the chances of finding the hard drive under four years worth of rubbish are...slim. And even then, if he found it, the chances of it being intact and usable are...slimmer.
But Howells is hopeful. He hasn’t looked for the hard drive yet as the council won’t give him permission, “despite having financial backing in place and engaging the local council a number of times”. He’s aware of the difficulties of the project, though. “Digging up a landfill is not as easy as just digging a hole in the ground,” he says. “A modern landfill is a complex engineering project and digging one up brings up all sorts of environmental issues such as dangerous gases and potential landfill fires, it’s a big, expensive and risky project” he adds, remaining hopeful, that it’s “also very doable.”
According to Howells, a landfill has never been excavated in the UK before, so they’re in “uncharted territory with regards to regulations, local authorities and environmental agencies” and the project would be costly, but if the authorities let him have a bash, “they would get a nice percentage as a gift / donation”. Howells is active in the Bitcoin space despite his massive loss, and remains hopeful that he’ll uncover his hard drive – no matter how long it takes. And honestly, best of luck to him. I once accidentally threw part of my hoover in a skip and had to climb in in my pyjamas to find it. It was fucking horrible. I did this for a hoover nozzle, which is worth slightly less than £63 million.