IT expert who threw away Bitcoin hard drive is plotting £10m hunt
Bitcoin investor who ‘accidentally threw away £149m worth of digital currency in Welsh landfill’ asks to scour the site using robot dogs and AI powered machine to sift 100,000 tons of rubbish
- James Howells is plotting a £10million treasure hunt for a lost Bitcoin hard drive
- He accidentally threw out hard drive in 2013 and now will pitch idea to council
- Mr Howells has repeatedly appealed to council for help in recovering machine
A computer engineer who claimed he accidentally threw his £149million Bitcoin fortune away is now plotting a £10million treasure hunt for the lost hard drive by scouring a landfill site.
James Howells is set to ask Newport City Council if he can dig up the rubbish tip in Wales – a request that has previously been denied several times – using robot dogs and an intricate Artificial Intelligence-powered machine.
The 36-year-old accidentally threw out the hard drive in 2013 and says it now contains Bitcoin worth more than £149million.
He was clearing out his office when the hard drive got binned along with a broken laptop, old keyboards, and mice.
But despite Mr Howells repeatedly appealing to Newport Council for help in recovering the machine – his requests have been refused for the last nine years.
It comes as cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin are crashing in value again in a new digital currency plunge.
James Howells (pictured above) is set to ask Newport City Council if he can dig up the rubbish tip in Wales – a request that has previously been denied several times – using robot dogs and an intricate Artificial-Intelligence powered machine
The entrance to the Newport rubbish tip, pictured above. Mr Howells accidentally threw out the hard drive in 2013 and has been trying to get it back ever since
The council previously told Mr Howells ‘on a number of occasions’ that ‘excavation is not possible under our licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area’.
However, he is now proposing a £10million hunt to the council in the coming weeks – backed by venture-capital funding – using robot dogs, drones and an AI machine to sift through 110,000 tons of rubbish.
The proposal has two versions – based on how much of the landfill the council will allow him to filter through – using a team of eight experts who are specialised in landfill excavation, waste management, and data extraction.
Mr Howells said he has budgeted for security costs including two robotic ‘Spot’ dogs that will record CCTV patrols of an evening, so nobody else can try and locate the hard drive overnight.
A mechanical arm would be brought in to filter through the rubbish and locate the hard drive alongside local pickers.
The IT expert had his first team meeting in May to practice the pitch at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, which was attended by ‘The Grand Tour’ star Richard Hammond (pictured)
He told Insider: ‘We’re trying to achieve this project to a full commercial standard.’
The IT expert had his first team meeting in May to practice the pitch at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, which was attended by ‘The Grand Tour’ star Richard Hammond.
Mr Howell’s plans also include ‘building a solar or wind-energy farm on top of the landfill site once the project is complete’.
He believes that even after all this time the hard drive would still be in good enough working order to retrieve the bitcoin files.
Mr Howells said if the project was a success, he would keep just 30 per cent of the value and split the rest between his recovery team and investors, while giving the rest to local Newport causes.
Newport Council previously told MailOnline that Mr Howells had made repeated requests for help – but it was unable to assist him.
A spokeswoman said: ‘Newport City Council has been contacted a number of times since 2014 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain Bitcoins.
Mr Howells said he has budgeted for security costs including two robotic ‘Spot’ dogs (pictured) that will record CCTV patrols of an evening, so nobody else can try and locate the hard drive overnight
‘The first time was several months after Mr Howells first realised the hardware was missing.
‘The cost of digging up the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds – without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order.
‘The council has also told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.
‘Even if we were able to agree to his request, there is the question of who would meet the cost if the hard drive was not found or was damaged to such an extent that the data could not be recovered.
‘We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter.’
MailOnline has contacted Newport City Council for comment.
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