James Howells, a Welshman who claims he accidentally threw away a hard drive containing bitcoin worth about £150m ($184m) in 2013 has reportedly secured funding to dig up a Newport landfill to find the lost drive.
“The funding has been secured. We’ve brought on an AI specialist. Their technology can easily be retrained to search for a hard drive,” Mr Howells told BBC News.
The 37-year-old IT worker claims he began mining bitcoin in 2009 when they were first created, and acquired thousands of them when bitcoin was valued at around $130.
The bitcoin stored on that hard drive could now be valued at nearly £150m, he says.
“In mid-2013 during a clear-out, the hard drive – then worth a few hundred thousand pounds – was mistakenly thrown out and put into a general waste bin at my local landfill site, after which it was buried on site,” he had told the Telegraph in 2017.
Mr Howells has made several pleas to Newport City Council, including offering to share the money, if it helps him search for the drive in a specific area.
However, the local authority had refused to let him look for the hard drive, citing environmental concerns. Besides, they said that the project would cost millions and there was no guarantee that the drive could be recovered or would even work.
“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,” a Newport City Council spokesperson had said last year.
Mr Howells has now said he would give a tenth of the proceeds from recovering the hard drive to turn the city into a crypto-currency hub.
The IT worker also believes he now has the funding for an effective and environmentally beneficial way to dig up the site.
Mr Howells has reportedly put together a team of eight experts who specialise in domains such as waste management, data extraction, AI-powered sorting and landfill excavation.
He has also sought the expertise of an adviser who worked for a company that recovered data from the black box of the crashed Columbia space shuttle, Insider reported.
There is no guarantee the hard drive is still in the landfill, and data in the drive may not be in a recoverable state.