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What is James Howells’ plan to get back his $181 million in bitcoin buried in a dump?

A cryptocurrency miner from the UK lost his bitcoin fortune after mistakenly throwing out the wrong hard drive, but he’s not given up hope of retrieving it.

Update:
UK man presents plan to search for $181 million in lost bitcoin
Dado RuvicREUTERS

We all have regrets, but some mistakes are more costly than others. James Howells from Wales made a particularly expensive error in 2013 when he mistakenly threw away a laptop hard drive, on which he was storing 8,000 bitcoins.

Howells had built up the impressive sash after mining the cryptocurrency back in 2009 and he had intended to keep them in the hope that their value would increase. And it certainly has done; in the nine years since that fateful trip to the dump his 8,000 bitcoins have increase in value to an astonishing $181 million, even after the recent fall in crypto prices.

However he has spent years developing a high-tech system to sort through more than one hundred tons of garbage in search of his missing fortune.

How will James Howells search the dump for his lost bitcoins?

Searching for a portable hard drive, smaller than a typical smartphone, which has been buried in a landfill site for nearly a decade may seem pointless, but Howells is confident that it can be done. He has brought together a team of experts from different fields to make it possible.

He plans to use a combination of human garbage sorters, robotic dogs and artificial-intelligence-powered conveyor belt, which is designed to search for the exact hard drive Howells lost. His team of eight includes an AI specialist, landfill excavators, data extraction experts and a waste management advisor. One member has previously worked for a company that recovered black box data from a crashed Columbia space shuttle.

Due to the high value of the hidden treasure, Howells has also been careful to include security protocol in his plan. Once approved the site will be fitted with 24-hour CCTV cameras and two robotic ‘Spot’ dogs designed by Boston Dynamics. The dogs would search the area for the hard drive by day and provide mobile CCTV patrols by night.

How much will it cost to find the lost $181 million of bitcoins?

Since Howells made the mistake in 2013, he has relentless petitioned Newport city council for permission to dig for his lost hard drive. However on each occasion local authorities have turned down his requests, arguing that it would damaging to the environment and extremely costly.

His latest proposals, shown to Insider, comprise of two options which he hopes to put to the council in the coming weeks. The proposals are backed by investment funds who would take a proportion of the bitcoins’ value once it is tracked down.

The more comprehensive option would see the entire site searched over a period of three years, with Howells team to sift through around 110,000 tons of garbage. The total cost is estimated to be $11 million.

If the council is unwilling to grant approval for the whole site, Howells team have also proposed a scaled down alternative. This option would take around 18 months to complete and would cost $6 million.

But despite his efforts the likelihood of Howells’ project gaining approval seem slim. Speaking to Insider, a representative for Newport city council said: “There is nothing that Mr. Howells could present to us.”

His proposals pose significant ecological risk, which we cannot accept and indeed are prevented from considering by the terms of our permit.”

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