South African man loses $1M BTC fortune after losing private keys

A bit over a decade ago, BTC was barely in the conversation and it was confined to geeks and tech nerds who scoured the Internet looking for the latest cool trends to try out. That was when one South African man learned about the digital currency and started to mine it. He accumulated 20 BTC, worth little at the time. This fortune would be worth almost a million dollars, but the man lost his private keys.

The man, whose name was withheld by local media at his request, grew up with a fondness for computers.

“We had a home computer that was generally used by my parents for work, but my older brother and I were allowed to use it with our own accounts under their supervision,” he told My Broadband, a local tech news outlet.

By Grade 7, he was experimenting with graphic cards and it was when he acquired the Nvidia GeForce GTS 250 that he decided to try mining BTC, which he had learned about on the Internet.

“I believe I used the original [BTC] wallet software, which required a wallet key and password to access. I don’t remember exactly how long I mined for, but it was for a few weeks to a couple of months continuously,” he revealed.

In that time, the man was able to mine around 20 BTC. However, at the time, selling BTC wasn’t as common as it is now. Most of the people who mined it were doing it for fun or to try out the technology. To compound this, being a minor, he didn’t have a bank account which would have been required had he managed to find a buyer overseas.

“Eventually, I got bored of it, as you couldn’t do much else on your PC while it was busy, and the Bitcoin you mined was practically worthless,” he recalls.

He abandoned the mining project and in time, he lost his BTC wallet password and private keys. Years later, when BTC first hit $1,000, he made his first real attempt to recover the BTC. He tried collecting all his hard drives and running data recovery software, but to no avail.

With BTC now trading just below $49,000, the 20 BTC would now be worth at least $980,000.

The South African’s story is not unique. Several thousand digital currency owners lose access to their assets every year, usually by forgetting their passwords and losing their private keys.

According to on-chain data analytics firm Glassnode, about 3 million BTC are lost forever, worth $150 billion.

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