James Howells, an IT worker living in the United Kingdom began mining bitcoin on his personal laptop in 2009. In 2013, though, “after I had stopped mining, the laptop I had used was broken into parts and sold on eBay,” says Howells.
He kept the drive he used to collect the bitcoins, “so if bitcoin did become valuable one day, I would still have the coins I mined.”
But, while cleaning his home in 2013, he mistakenly put it into a waste bin at his local landfill site in Newport, South Wales, where it got buried.
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He said he knows exactly where his misplaced 7,500 bitcoins are but the city council where he lives won’t let him retrieve them. They say it’s against the law.
With the present Bitcoin price of about $15,700 (at the time of this publication), Howells may be sitting on almost $118,000,000.
More than four years’ worth of garbage have poured into the dump since his mistake, which would make any recovery effort a significant undertaking. “A modern landfill is a complex engineering project and digging one up brings up all sorts of environmental issues, such as dangerous gasses and potential landfill fires,” Howells says. “It’s a big, expensive and risky project.”
He wants to try, regardless, but the Newport City Council won’t allow it.
A council spokesperson said recently that their offices have been “contacted in the past about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain bitcoins,” but digging up, storing and treating the waste could cause a “huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.”
The landfill reportedly contains about 350,000 tons of waste and 50,000 more tons are added every year.