A British man James Howells threw a hard drive containing more than $9 million in bitcoin into the trash. The device is now buried under a mountain of garbage at a landfill site in Wales. It will be almost impossible to find.
James Howells got rid of the drive, which holds a digital store of 7,500 bitcoins, between June and August this year. The IT worker mined the virtual currency four years ago when it was the exclusive domain of tech geeks.
Back then bitcoin was worth very little. On Friday, the cryptocurrency broke through $1,200, making the missing hard drive worth around $9 million.
It had sat in a drawer for years and he had forgotten it contained the bitcoins, which he obtained in 2009 for almost nothing, when he threw it out. A few years ago Mr Howells, who works in IT, had dismantled his computer after spilling a drink on it.
“I stored a couple of parts away like the hard drive, and the rest of the bits and pieces which were still working I sold for spares,” James Howells said.
“I kept the hard drive in a drawer in my office for three years without a second thought – totally forgot about bitcoin all together. I had been distracted by family life and moving house.
“Fast forward to 2013 which is when I had a clearout of my old IT equipment – I hadn’t used this drive for over three years, I believed I’d taken everything off it… so it got thrown in the bin.”
Mr Howells later realised what was left on the hard drive.
After discovering the mistake late last week, a “devastated” Howells began a frantic search through computer files and other drives for a backup. There isn’t one.
A spokesperson for Newport City Council said an item thrown away in the summer months would now be buried under 25,000 cubic meters of waste and earth.
Mr Howells added: “I still believe in bitcoin. I believe its value is going to go much, much higher and it’s still in its early days.