I’ll spend £10m to get my bitcoin back from tip, IT worker tells council

I’ll spend £10m to get my bitcoin back from tip, IT worker tells council

Computer scientist asks to use robotic dogs to scour landfills and find '£149m Bitcoin' - REX/Shutterstock

Computer scientist asks to use robotic dogs to scour landfills and find ‘£149m Bitcoin’ – REX/Shutterstock

A computer engineer who claims he accidentally dumped £140million worth of bitcoin will ask a local council for permission to dig a landfill site.

James Howells, 36, will ask Newport City Council if he can spend £10million and use robotic dogs and a complicated artificial intelligence machine to try to find a hard drive where the bitcoins are stored.

Mr Howells says he acquired the 7,500 bitcoin for next to nothing in 2009 but threw away the computer hardware in 2013 when he was cleaning out his old office.

Over the past nine years, Mr. Howells has repeatedly petitioned Newport City Council to allow him to dig up the dump, but all of those petitions have been denied.

The council has previously said that “the excavation is not possible under our license permit and the excavation itself would have a huge impact on the environment in the area” and it has denied applications “on several occasions”.

As part of his latest proposal, Mr Howells has secured £10million in venture capital funding in Germany and Switzerland and says he will use robotic dogs, drones and an AI machine to filter 110,000 tonnes of waste.

“It’s obviously a needle in a haystack and a very, very risky investment,” Hanspeter Jaberg, the Swiss venture capitalist, told Insider.

Mr Howells will make two proposals to the Council authorities based on the volume of landfill they allow him to inspect.

He assembled a team of eight experts, all specializing in landfill excavation, waste management and data extraction, including a consultant who worked for a company recovering lost data from the black box on the crashed space shuttle Columbia.

The massive budget includes safeguards in the form of two robotic “spot” dogs that record surveillance patrols in the evenings and ensure no other opportunistic treasure hunters gain access to the search area at night.

A mechanical arm is used along with local pickers to filter the trash.

“We’re trying to bring this project to a full commercial standard,” the 36-year-old told Insider.

“We definitely don’t want to harm the environment. If anything, we want to leave everything in better condition.”

“We cannot help him in this matter”

Despite the fact that the hardware has been in the landfill for almost a decade, the former IT worker is confident it can be recovered in working order.

He told Insiders he estimates there’s an 80-90 percent chance of successfully retrieving the bitcoin, provided a component called a “platter” — a disc of glass or metal that contains the data — hasn’t cracked.

Mr Howells says he then plans to “build a solar or wind farm on the landfill once the project is complete” to allay environmental concerns about the project.

If the money is recovered, Mr Howells says he would keep 30 percent of the bitcoins and distribute the rest to his team and local causes.

A Newport City Council spokesman said, “Newport City Council has been contacted multiple times since 2014 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware allegedly containing bitcoins.”

“The first time was several months after Mr. Howells first noticed the hardware was missing.”

“The cost of excavating the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds – with no guarantee it will be found or still working.”

“The Council has also advised Mr Howells on numerous occasions that excavation is not possible under our license permit and the excavation itself would have a huge impact on the surrounding environment.”

“While we could agree to his request, if the hard drive is not found or is so badly damaged that the data cannot be recovered, who will bear the cost?”

“It was therefore clear to us that we could not help him in this matter.”

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