A resident of the English City of Newport (Wales, UK), James Howells, claims that he threw an old hard drive where 7,500 Bitcoins were stored in a landfill in 2013. Talking to the BBC, Howells explained that he mined bitcoins for four years when cryptocurrencies were still in their infant stage and cost very little. He threw away the hard drive between June and August 2013, believing he had backed up all the files he needed.
Howells also confessed that he did not take Bitcoin seriously since the price of an asset in 2013 was worth about $74. Now, he hopes for a miracle and asks the Newport authorities to help find the lost hard drive. To do this, he proposes to dig a specific part of the landfill and find the device:
“You need to dig a specific area of the landfill based on the grid coordinate system, rebuild the hard drive while adhering to all safety and environmental standards. Afterward, data recovery specialists would rebuild the disk from scratch with new parts and try to recover the tiny piece of data that is required to access the bitcoins.”
In return, Howells promises to distribute $70 million to the residents and leave only 25% on the hard disk for himself. Unfortunately, the Newport authorities declined the proposal and did not want to further deliberate or discuss the issue.
A spokeswoman for the Newport City Council also explained:
“The Council has repeatedly told Mr. Howells that excavation is not possible under legal license permit and that the excavation itself would have a great impact on the environment. It will also cost millions of pounds to excavate the landfill, store and handle the waste – with no guarantee that they will find the disk or it will still be in good working condition.”
Following the council’s decision, it looks like Howells has little or no chance to get back the lost bitcoins. Note that at the time of writing, BTC is at $36,180, and the total cost of Bitcoins lost with the hard drive exceeds $264 million.
Hodlers carelessly lose access to thousands of Bitcoins
It is sad to note that James Howells is not alone in this misery. Recently, a former Ripple Labs employee, Stefan Thomas, lost the keys to a Bitcoin wallet that holds 7,000 coins worth over $229 million. The password-secured and encrypted IronKey Flash will automatically lock after ten failed access attempts. And Thomas has already used eight. But if he does not succeed in the next two attempts, the flash drive will be encrypted forever.
In February 2020, Clifton Collins, an Irish drug dealer, had a similar story with Howells. He hid the code for a Bitcoin wallet in an aluminum case for fishing rods. Immediately after Clifton’s arrest, the owner of his rented apartment took his belongings to a landfill. And in the trash heap was access to a wallet that stores over 50 million euros in bitcoins.
In 2017, the founder of a sports blogging platform, Dave Portnoy, also lost $50,000 of bitcoins after misplacing the key to the hardware wallet that held the coins.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that about 20% of all currently existing bitcoins worth over $140 billion are stored on inaccessible wallets. A firm that helps recover lost digital keys, Wallet Recovery Services, also confirmed that it receives over 70 requests a day from users trying to access their digital wallets – three times the record last month.