An IT worker is begging his local council for permission to search a landfill site for a hard drive he believes contains Bitcoin worth £230million.
James Howells claims he accidentally dumped the drive, containing 7,500 units of the cryptocurrency in mid-2013.
At the time, the Bitcoin contained on the hard drive was worth hundreds of thousands of pounds but he believes its value has soared to £230m.
The 35-year-old, from Newport in Wales, has spent years asking the local city council for permission to search the landfill site for the hard drive.
He has even made several offers to share the money with the local authority, saying he’ll give 25% of the total — around £55m — to “the people of Newport”.
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He said: “Basically what I'm saying to Newport council is if you allow me to search in a specific area, and I find it, I'm happy to give the people of Newport 25 per cent.
“I want to give it to people. Basically, anyone who is struggling right now they could make an application to a relief fund and get money sent to them straight away.
“Would that not be a good thing for the people of Newport? I think so. It would be a very good use of that money.”
Howells said he started mining Bitcoin — a way of earning the cryptocurrency — in February 2009, when it was possible to use standard home computing equipment for the task.
But he claims he had two identical hard drives and accidentally threw away the wrong one in 2013.
Since then he thinks the value of the files on the hard drive has soared, and now exceeds £200m.
He says he even has support from a hedge fund which he claims has offered to finance a professional search operation of the landfill site in Newport, but has been unable to get permission from the council.
“I have got an international hedge fund who are willing to put up anywhere between £2.5m to £3.5m to do a professional search operation of the landfill,” he said.
“Basically, to do the job properly to all environmental standards because at the end of the day even though that is a lot of money it's still worth it.
“I have got to give up a large percentage to the investors which I accept - the risk to reward ratio. But I accept that because all the risk is on them if anything, there's hardly any risk with Newport City Council.”
He said he isn’t planning on giving up on his campaign, because the value of the Bitcoin on the drive is only going to rise over time, adding: In five to ten years time the drive is going to be worth a billion pounds.”
But Newport City Council said it has told Howells several times that excavating the site isn’t possible under its license, and the process would have a “huge environment impact”.
A spokesperson said: “Newport City Council has been contacted a number of times since 2014 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain Bitcoins.
“The first time was several months after Mr Howells first realised the hardware was missing.
“The cost of digging up the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds - without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order.
“The council has also told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licensing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.
“Even if we were able to agree to his request, there is the question of who would meet the cost if the hard drive was not found or was damaged to such an extent that the data could not be recovered.
“We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter.”
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