A computer engineer accidentally dropped a hard drive containing around £149m worth of bitcoin and is now planning a £10m treasure hunt; Searching for a lost hard drive by searching a dump.
James Howells is to ask Newport City Council if he can excavate the tip of the rubbish in Wales – a request that has been refused several times in the past – using robot dogs and a complex artificial intelligence machine.
The 36-year-old threw away the hard drive in 2013 and said it now contained more than £149 million worth of Bitcoin.
He was clearing out his desk when the hard drive was thrown into the trash along with a broken laptop, old keyboards and mice.
But despite Howells repeatedly appealing to Newport council to help restore the device; His applications have been rejected for the past nine years.
This comes at a time when the value of cryptocurrencies including “Bitcoin” is crashing again in a new decline for the digital currency.
The council had previously told Howells “on a number of occasions” that “drilling is not possible under our license permit, and that drilling in itself would have a significant environmental impact in the surrounding area.”
However, he is now proposing to seek £10m for the council in the coming weeks – backed by venture capital funding – using robot dogs, drones and an AI machine to sift through 110,000 tonnes of rubbish.
The proposal has two versions – based on how many landfills the council will allow it to filter through – using a team of eight experts specializing in landfill excavation, waste management and data mining.
Howells said he has budgeted for security costs, including two ‘Spot’ robot dogs that will undertake CCTV patrols in the evening; So no one else can try to locate a hard drive overnight.
* Robot arm
A mechanical arm will be brought in to filter through the garbage and locate the hard drive with the local pickers.
“We are trying to achieve this project with full commercial standards,” he said.
Howells’ plans also include “building a solar or wind farm on top of the landfill once the project is complete.”
He believes that even after all this time, his hard drive will still be in good working order to recover bitcoins.
Howells said that if the project was successful; It will keep only 30 percent of the value, split the rest between the recovery team and investors, while giving the rest to local authorities in Newport.
Newport Council told MailOnline that Howells had made repeated requests for help but was unable to help him.
A spokesman for Newport City Council said: “Newport City Council has been contacted several times since 2013 about the possibility of recovering a piece of IT hardware allegedly containing bitcoin, which may or may not be in our landfill.
* The first time to search for the missing
The first time was several months after Howells realized the device was missing.
The site reported that the engineer recently presented a plan that included advanced technologies, estimated at a cost of about $12 million, to find the hard drive.
The plan includes the use of artificial intelligence technology to filter garbage and the use of a number of environmental experts and data recovery, as well as robot dogs; So that no one else can try to steal the hard drive if they find it.
The newspaper quoted Howells as saying that the search in the landfill is a mammoth operation in itself and requires a lot of funding.
The young engineer promised that if the operation was successful, he would use a large percentage of the money recovered to invest in projects that help people in the city, including placing a clean energy generation facility at the landfill.
“We would like to set up a mining facility that will use that clean electricity to produce bitcoins for the residents of Newport,” he added.
However, the main issue Howells has yet to overcome is getting permission from the board.
A spokesman for Newport City Council said: “We have legal duties to fulfill in managing the landfill.”
“We’ll also have to shut down the site so Howells can do his job,” he added. We are a public sector body, and our duty is to provide services to our residents, not to speculative excavations that will impede the provision of those services.
“Also, there is no guarantee that the hard drive is even at the landfill, and even if it is, the chances of it being found and in repairable condition after being in the landfill for nine years, exposed to high voltage and a corrosive environment , is very thin.”