Nick Hartley BBC News Gales
Almost 10 years ago, James Howells threw away a hard drive during a cleanup, forgetting about the bitcoins it contained.
Today, when the value of what it contains is estimated at $ 184 million (FCFA 117,961,490,000), Howells plans to spend millions digging a landfill in Newport, UK to try and find the missing hard drive.
If he recovers it, he said he would donate 10% of the proceeds from the sale to turn the city into a cryptocurrency hub.
But local authorities have already said that digging in the landfill poses an ecological risk.
Howells, a computer engineer, accidentally threw away the hard drive in 2013 after mining 8,000 bitcoins in the early stages of the currency’s development.
The value of bitcoin fluctuates enormously. For example, Howells’ holdings were worth around $ 250 million in January 2021, but with the steep decline at the start of the year, it is now significantly lower.
The Newport City Council, which runs the landfill Howells believes the hard drive is in, has consistently denied him access to the site for excavation work for environmental and access reasons.
Hard drive recovery would require massive manual digging to remove thousands of tons of compacted debris that have accumulated at the site over decades.
But the IT engineer believes he now has the funds and knowledge to do this efficiently and for the benefit of the site environment.
“Digging a landfill is a big operation in itself,” he explains.
“The funding is secure and we have hired an artificial intelligence specialist. His technology can be easily trained to look for a hard drive.”
Not only that: “we also have an environmental team on board. In fact, we have an entire team of experts with different skills, and when we are all united, we will be able to carry out this task while maintaining very high standards”.
“Significant ecological risk”
But finding the hard drive is only part of this monumental task. There is no guarantee that, if found, its condition will be recoverable.
But in that case, its owner is more than ready to receive a mega sum of money, although the actual amount depends on the direction of the volatile cryptocurrency.
Either way, it’s probably several million dollars.
From there, Howells promised to donate 10% of the profits to the community. And she already has in mind how to invest it: “we have a whole list of initiatives”, she adds.
“One of the things we would like to do on the current landfill, once we have cleared and reclaimed the land, is to install a power generation plant there, maybe wind turbines. We would also like to put in is build a community-based plant. mining bitcoin and using the clean electricity generated by the turbines to create cryptocurrencies for the people of Newport, “he explains.
Among his many projects there is also a proposal to give around $ 60 in bitcoin to every Newport resident and install cryptocurrency-based terminals in each store.
But the authorities responded to each of Howells’ requests with a denial.
“We have legal obligations to fulfill in managing the landfill,” said a spokesperson.
“This includes ecological risk management for the site and surrounding areas. Mr Howells’ proposals pose a significant ecological risk which we cannot accept and which, due to the conditions of the landfill management permit, is not even considered. “.