After losing PS275 million in bitcoins ($A510 millions) to his hard drive, an IT worker has set up a 12-month search for a landfill site with specialist AI technology and X-ray scanning devices.
James Howells (35) has offered PS55million ($A102million) to his local council to allow him to search a 200-meter area of a Newport rubbish dump.
Inadvertently, Mr Howells threw the hard drive that contained the bitcoin fortune while he was cleaning his office in 2013.
In his search for the specialist, he has reached out to engineers, data recovery specialists, and environmentalists from all over the globe.
Mr. Howells stated that his plan was supported by a super-rich hedge funds willing to pay for the costs of the search and the equipment in return for a lion’s share.
He said that the council chiefs are stubborn and won’t listen to him, no matter how much he promises.
He told The Sun that bitcoin’s value has risen and fallen since January. If we could recover the hard drive today, it would be worth PS275million ($A511million).
“This would be a proper hunt – not someone going in with a bucket of spades,” Mr Howells said.
“We have multiple conveyor belts, Xray scanning devices, and an AI scanning device that can recognize items of similar size and density as the hard drive.
“This would be a delicate hunt because we wouldn’t want to damage your hard drive in the process. You can’t just use a claw graber.
“We have spoken with excavation experts and engineers to ensure that everything was done properly, in a safe manner, and to protect the environment.
“For the past four to five months, I have also been speaking to data recovery experts from around the globe to ensure that we can recover it from the hard drive.
Mr Howells stated that the scanner alone would cost as much as PS500,000 ($A928,000), while an extractor tool would add another PS100,000. ($A185,000).
He said that council chiefs wouldn’t entertain his idea and won’t allow him to meet officials to discuss his plans.
Mr Howells stated, “If they would listen and hear me out, they would know there is no risk to council,”
“All I want is to make my case to the decision-makers and if they still don’t say yes, so be it. But they won’t even do that.
“In January, I offered them PS55million ($A102 million), but they say ‘no’ at the moment, no matter how much money.
According to Mr Howells, he studied aerial photos of the site and concluded that the hard drive could be found in an area of 200 sq m and may be as deep as 15 metres.
He stated that he estimates there are between 300,000 and 400,000 tonnes worth of waste.
Newport Council stated that Mr. Howells repeatedly asked for assistance, but it was unable.
A spokeswoman for The Sun stated that the Port City Council was contacted several times over the possibility of retrieving an IT hardware piece believed to contain bitcoins.
“The first time occurred several months after Mr Howells realized that the hardware was missing.
“The cost of digging up the landfill and storing the waste could reach millions of pounds without any guarantee that it will be found or in good condition.
“The council also informed Mr Howells on several occasions that excavation is impossible under our licencing permit, and that the excavation itself would have a significant environmental impact on surrounding areas.
“Even if we could agree to his request, it is still a question of who would pay the costs if the hard disk was lost or damaged so that data cannot be recovered.
“We have been clear that we are unable to assist him in this matter.”