A COMPUTER engineer is planning the world's biggest treasure hunt – to find his £225 million bitcoin he lost to a rubbish dump.
James Howells, 38, accidentally threw out his multi-million hard-drive containing the bitcoin during an office clear out in 2013.
A decade later, James believes that the hard-drive is at a rubbish dump in Newport, South Wales – and he's planning a hunt with a reward of £10 million to whoever finds it.
His treasure hunt has been backed by a team of investors who are willing to cover the cost of the search as well as any equipment that may need to be used.
James is also preparing a "final nuclear option" of taking legal action against the Newport City Council if they continue to ignore his proposals.
Search expert Keaton Stone said that this "nuclear option" is becoming increasingly likely as the council has refused to negotiate with James over the last decade.
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The council have argued that the chances of finding the drive, which James believes is now worth around £225m, are unrealistic.
The computer engineer has previously hired environmentalists and data recovery experts from around the world to aid in his desperate search.
In 2021, James even hired NASA data experts Ontrack – the data-recovery firm which recovered the battered drive from the Columbia space shuttle after it exploded in 2003.
Then, James said: "I have put together a full consortium of experts in the field to refute all of the claims that the council has said it has concerns over.
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"I've spoken to data recovery experts who have worked with Nasa on the Columbia space shuttle disaster.
"They were able to recover from a shuttle that exploded and they don't seem to think that being at a landfill will be a problem."
Keaton said: "All that James ever wanted was for the council to see his presentations and hear about the experts we have on board.
"We have an answer for all their concerns, if they just sit with us, we can explain it to them.
"It would be the greatest treasure hunt of all time."
Keaton believes that the council's "bad attitude" has cost them millions of pounds, due to the price fluctuations in the cryptocurrency.
James has even offered the council a 25 per cent share in the funds, currently estimated at around £50 million, and has pledged to invest in his community.
Newport City Council said his proposals “pose significant ecological risk which we cannot accept, and are prevented from considering by the terms of our permit”.
James, who is well versed in the dangers, responded by admitting: "Digging up a landfill is a huge operation in itself.
Adding: "The funding has been secured. We've brought in an AI specialist. Their technology can easily be retrained to search for a hard drive.
"We've also got an environmental team on board. We've basically got a well-rounded team of various experts, with various expertise, which, when we all come together, are capable of completing this task to a very high standard."
James has asserted that the search will take no more than 12 months, be aided by special AI technology, and that the council would not be out of pocket.
Newport City Council said James has made repeated requests for help – but that they remain unable to assist him.
A spokesperson said: "We have been contacted multiple times since 2013 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain bitcoins, which may or may not be in our landfill site.
"The council has told Mr Howells multiple times that excavation is not possible under our environmental permit, and work of that nature would have a huge negative environmental impact on the surrounding area.
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"We have been very clear and consistent in our responses that we cannot assist Mr Howells in this matter. Our position has not changed.
"We will be offering no further comments on this issue as it takes up valuable officer time which could be spent on delivering services for the residents of Newport."
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