IT worker’s fortune ends up buried under landfill
LONDON: When James Howells spilt lemonade on his laptop, he decided it was not worth keeping.
But he is ruing his decision after he realised it had £5 million (R83m) in virtual currency stored on the hard drive.
The stash is now buried under 1.2m of rubbish and mud in a landfill site.
The 28-year-old IT worker had accumulated 7 500 units of bitcoin (virtual currency) soon after it was launched in 2009. Back then his stash – units of data stored on his computer – was worth £20 but their value has soared after the currency took off among online traders.
The price of a single bitcoin has reached £ 664, meaning Howells’ haul is worth £5m. It dawned on him how valuable his coins had become and he went looking for the hard drive.
But when he got to the landfill site in Newport, South Wales, workers broke the bad news that it could be anywhere beneath an area of rubbish the size of a football pitch.
“You know when you put something in the bin and say to yourself ‘That’s a bad idea’? I really did have that,” he said.
Bitcoins exist only as units of digital data and are not backed by a central bank.
Howells generated his stash in 2009, when the currency was known only in tech circles, by running a program on his laptop for a week.
In 2010, the PC broke after he spilt lemonade on it so he dismantled it, He kept the drive and later binned it.
His hoard can only be accessed using a “private key” and the only copy is on his buried hard drive.
He said he did not mind if hopefuls tried digging for the device. “If they were to offer me a share, fair enough.”
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