An IT worker says he accidentally threw away a computer hard drive full of Bitcoin now worth more than £74 million.
James Howells says the drive is now buried deep below thousands of tonnes of rubbish on a landfill site in Newport, Wales.
Bitcoin is digital currency which is seeing a spectacular surge in its value despite remaining out of reach for the vast majority of people.
One Bitcoin was worth more than £8,700 (or $11,000) on Sunday night, with its price having surged by 1,000% since the start of the year.
It was even reported that the twin brothers who sued Mark Zuckerberg over the founding of Facebook are now billionaires after investing their lawsuit winnings in Bitcoin, Wales Online reports.
James chucked out the hard drive in 2013, forgetting that it contained the cryptocurrency which even then was worth “a few hundred thousand pounds”.
The 32-year-old began “mining” Bitcoin – a complex process – on his laptop in 2009. He mined 7,500 bitcoins which he saved in a wallet file on his computer hard drive.
He told the Telegraph : “After I had stopped mining, the laptop I had used was broken into parts and sold on eBay.
“However, I kept the hard drive in a drawer at home knowing it contained my Bitcoin private keys, so that if Bitcoin did become valuable one day I would still have the coins I had mined.
“In mid-2013 during a clear-out, the hard drive – then worth a few hundred thousand pounds – was mistakenly thrown out and put into a general waste bin at my local landfill site, after which it was buried on site.”
But James says he’s not “sat here crying about it”.
“Accidents happen. I just get on with it. I’ve always known Bitcoin would go this high and I’ve always known the value of the hard drive would go up.
“In the future I easily see it being worth anywhere from $500m (£270m) to $1billion.”
This week the currency ballooned to its highest value yet and James is seeking permission from Newport council to go looking for the laptop in the landfill.
He believes he can pinpoint the laptop’s location by estimating its depth based on the date it was thrown away.
He added: “The higher the value goes, the more chance I have to recover it so it’s just been a waiting game for the past few years – waiting until the bitcoin price was high enough to make the drive a juicy enough treasure to hunt.”
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically.
According to The Guardian, the current value of all bitcoins in existence is $97 billion.
No one controls it. According to coindesk.com “Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros – they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems.”
It’s the first example of a growing category of money known as cryptocurrency. It emerged after the financial crisis and is not underpinned by a central bank. It allows people to bypass banks and traditional payment methods for goods and services. It can be used to buy things electronically.
It was created by a software developer called Satoshi Nakamoto, who proposed an electronic payment system independent of any central authority, transferable electronically, more or less instantly, with very low transaction fees.