- Nick Hartley
- BBC Wales News
Almost ten years ago, the British James Howells threw away a HD (hard drivehard drive that stores the memory of a computer) during a house cleaning, forgetting that there was a digital wallet with cryptocurrencies recorded on the device.
Now, the 8 thousand bitcoins (virtual currencies) that were on the HD are worth 150 million pounds (R$ 1.1 billion). That’s why Howells wants to spend thousands of pounds to dig a landfill in the city of Newport, Wales, to try to find the device.
Howells says that if he finds the object, he will donate 10% of the proceeds to the city to develop a series of cryptocurrency-focused projects. But the City Council (equivalent to the City Council) says excavating the site is an ecological risk.
millions in the trash
Howells, an IT engineer, accidentally threw away the hard drive in 2013 after mining 8,000 bitcoins in the early stages of the coin’s development.
Bitcoin’s value fluctuates wildly – in January 2021, 8,000 bitcoins were worth around £210m, but with a big drop earlier this year, the value is now significantly lower.
The Newport council has repeatedly denied Howells access to excavate the site due to environmental and other restrictions – even with the 10% donation offer.
The 37-year-old said his donation to the city would be used to further the use and understanding of cryptocurrency. “We have a whole list of incentives, of good things that we would like to do for the community,” he said.
The city claims that any excavation project would require a massive manual task of digging through thousands of tons of compacted rubbish that has accumulated at the site for decades. But Howells believes he now has the funding and experience to do so 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 brought in an artificial intelligence expert. His technology can be easily reused to look for a hard drive. We also have an environmental team in the plan.”
“One of the things that we would like to do on the landfill, after we have cleaned it up and reclaimed this land, is put in a power generation facility, maybe some wind turbines. And we would like to create a cryptocurrency mining facility for the community, which would use that clean electricity to create bitcoin for the people of Newport.”
Finding the hard drive, however, is only part of the task. There is no guarantee that if it is there, the HD is in a recoverable state.
But if it is, its owner will have a considerable gain – although the actual value depends on where the highly volatile cryptocurrency value goes.
‘Significant ecological risk’
Among its other plans are proposals to give £50 worth of bitcoin to every person in the city and to install cryptocurrency-based terminals in all stores.
The Newport Council remains resistant to the idea. “We have statutory duties that we must fulfill in managing the landfill,” said a spokesperson for the Council.
“Part of that is managing ecological risk for the site and the wider area. Mr. Howells’ proposals represent a significant ecological risk that we cannot accept and, in fact, are prevented from even considering by the terms of our license.”
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