By Nick Hartley BBC News, Galis
Nearly 10 years ago, James Howells threw a hard drive away during the cleanup, forgetting the bitcoins it contained.
Today, when its contents are valued at $184 million (117,961,490,000 CFA), Howells plans to spend millions digging up a landfill in Newport (UK) to try and find the missing hard drive.
If he gets it back, he said he will donate 10% of the proceeds from the sale to turn the city into a cryptocurrency hub.
But local authorities have already said that digging the landfill poses an environmental hazard.
Howells, a computer engineer, accidentally disposed of the hard drive in 2013 after mining 8,000 bitcoins in the early stages of currency development.
The value of Bitcoin fluctuates greatly. For example, Howells’ holdings were worth about $250 million in January 2021, but with a sharp decline at the start of the year, it’s now much less.
Newport City Council, which operates the landfill where Howells believes the hard drive is located, has consistently denied him access to the site for environmental excavation and access.
Hard drive recovery requires massive manual excavation to remove the thousands of tons of compacted debris that has accumulated on site over decades.
But the computer engineer believes that he now has the funds and knowledge to do this effectively and beneficial to the site’s environment.
“Digging a landfill is a big operation in itself,” he explains.
“The funding is secure and we’ve hired an AI specialist. His technology can be easily trained to look for a hard drive.”
That’s not all: “We also have an environmental team on board. In fact, we have a whole team of experts with different skills, and when we all come together, we will be able to carry out this mission while maintaining very high standards.”
‘Great environmental risk’
But finding the hard drive is only part of this huge task. There is no guarantee, if found, that his condition will be cured.
But if this is the case, then its owner is quite ready to receive a huge amount of money, although the actual amount depends on the volatile trend of the cryptocurrency.
Either way, it’s probably several million dollars.
From there, Howells promised to donate 10% of the profits to the community. And he’s already on his mind how he’ll invest it: “We have a whole list of initiatives,” he adds.
“One of the things that we would like to do in the current landfill, once the land is cleared and reclaimed, is to install a power generation facility there, maybe some wind turbines. We would also like to put it into a community building – home to a bitcoin mining facility and use the clean electricity that the turbines generate to create cryptocurrencies. for the residents of Newport.
Also among his many plans is a proposal to give around $60 worth of bitcoin to every Newport resident and to install crypto-based terminals at every store.
But the authorities responded to each of Howells’ requests with refusals.
“We have legal obligations that must be fulfilled in landfill management,” a company spokesperson said.
“This includes managing environmental risks on the site and surrounding areas. Mr. Howells’ proposals pose significant environmental risks that we cannot accept and which, due to the terms of the landfill management permit, have not even been considered.”
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