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British man searches for lost hard drive potentially worth EUR 179m

James Howells threw out a hard drive in 2013 during a clear out, having forgotten about the Bitcoin on it. The Bitcoin is now worth an estimated GBP 150m (EUR 179m), he is planning to spend millions digging up a landfill site in Newport, Wales in a bid to find the lost hard drive.

If found, Mr Howells said he would give 10 pct of the proceeds to turn the city into a crypto-currency hub.

However, Newport county council have stated that excavating the site would pose an ecological risk.

Mr Howells, an IT engineer, accidentally threw away the hard drive in 2013 after mining 8,000 Bitcoins in the early stages of the currency’s development.

Bitcoin fluctuates wildly in value – in January 2021, Mr Howells’ was worth around £210m, but with a big crash coming earlier this year, it is now significantly less.

Newport council, which owns the landfill that Mr Howells believes the drive is in, has denied him access to dig the site multiple times, citing concerns over environmental risks and difficulty to access.

Mr Howells has now pledged about 10 pct of the proceeds of the drive, if it were found, to fund a range of crypto-based projects.

The task of digging up the drive would be an enormous manual effort, involving sifting thousands of tonnes of compacted landfill that has stacked up at the site over decades.

Mr Howells, however, insists he has the funding and expertise in place to do the job in an effective and environmentally beneficial way for the site.

“Digging up a landfill is a huge operation in itself,” he said.

“The funding has been secured. We’ve brought on an AI specialist. Their technology can easily be retrained to search for a hard drive. We’ve also got an environmental team on board. We’ve basically got a well-rounded team of various experts, with various expertise, which, when we all come together, are capable of completing this task to a very high standard.”

Finding the hard drive though is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. There is no guarantee that even if the hard drive is there, it would be in a recoverable state. Furthermore the cost of such an undertaking would be sizable.

But Mr Howell’s remains determined in his effort to convince Newport council to allow him access and potentially cash in on his 13 year old endeavour.

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