The £4m treasure hunt for computer hard drive thrown away full of bitcoins

A man in Wales who ‘mined’ bitcoins with a value of £4million has accidentally thrown away the hard drive on which they were stored, sparking a treasure hunt to find the missing goldmine

A man in Wales who ‘mined’ bitcoins with a value of nearly £4million has accidentally thrown away the hard drive on which they were stored, sparking a treasure hunt to find the missing hoard.

After visiting his local recycling centre in Newport, James Howells was told he would have to search through around four feet of waste in an area the size of a football field to have any hope of finding the missing item - but even then there is no guarantee.

And the cost of closing the centre and hiring help to find it is too high without the certainty it will be found.

The IT worker had mined 7,500 of Bitcoin in 2009, when it was easier to find the virtual currency. But had not thought anything more of it since then.

He discarded the hard drive in the summer when clearing out his desk.  But it was not until last week that he realised the mistake.

"I've searched high and low. I've tried to retrieve files from all of my USB sticks, from all of my hard drives. I've tried everything just in case I had a backup file, or had copied it by accident. And … nothing," the IT worker told the Guardian.

The unfortunate techie then took to the Internet Relay Chat forum asking for advice.

But now anyone who has the resources or manpower to hunt for the storage system has been advised of the make and model and given the coordinates of the waste site.

One Reddit social media user wrote: “We encouraged him to take a trip to the landfill and see if he could find it, maybe hire someone(s) to help him. He said he's going to make a few calls... I felt so bad for him. That's $6 million and counting...  The hard drive was thrown away with the Dell caddy still attached. It came from a 2006 Dell XPS M1710 laptop.”

Another posted: “So for anyone interested or with resources and manpower to search there is a laptop hdd with 7500 bit coin buried under 3/4 ft of mud/waste located at [the coordinates] 51° 33.858', -2° 59.863' .... happy hunting :)”

James Howells with his computer (Photo by Rex)

The location where the missing hard drive is thought to be located (Google Maps)The location where the missing hard drive is thought to be located (Google Maps)

Computer hard drives can withstand a great deal of stress, including sustained periods of immersion in water, and still keep their data.

Therefore, despite being buried beneath mud and rubble, the Bitcoins could in theory still be retrievable - unless the hard drive had been smashed.

However, magnets, which are used by waste authorities in sorting through rubbish, can sometimes wipe information on the systems - so there's still a chance the hard drive could be found without the valuable bitcoins.

The story comes after a man in Norway bought £15 worth of Bitcoins in 2009, only to forget about them for four years. When he retrieved them this year, the currency had appreciated to the point that they were worth £430,000.