$11 million plan to find 8,000 Bitcoins in a landfill

 After nearly 10 years of perseverance, James Howells called for 11 million USD in investment, ready to dig 110,000 tons of garbage to find the hard drive containing 8,000 Bitcoins.

The life of Howells, a 36-year-old former IT engineer in Wales (England), changed completely in 2013 when he threw a hard drive containing thousands of Bitcoins in the trash.

"I have two identical hard drives in a drawer. One has no data, the other contains 8,000 Bitcoins. I was about to throw away the empty hard drive, but I made a mistake. The drive containing the Private Key key was brought to me. a dump in the city of Newport," he said.

The above Bitcoin was obtained from cryptocurrency mining in 2013 and is currently worth about 181 million USD.

James Howells, the owner of a hard drive containing 8,000 Bitcoins buried in the trash. Photo: Wales News
James Howells, the owner of a hard drive containing 8,000 Bitcoins buried in the trash. Photo: Wales News

Over the years, Howells has worked tirelessly to get Newport City Council permission to dig up the landfill in search of his life's technological treasure. However, local authorities are concerned that this is expensive and harmful to the environment. Howells has yet to receive approval from the authorities, but has drawn up a detailed plan, worth $11 million, to convince the city council.

The former engineer admits digging 110,000 tons of trash sounds like an impossible task. But he still raised $11 million from venture capital funds to launch the project. To filter the huge amount of garbage, the longest process can be three years at a cost of 11 million USD and the fastest is 18 months with 6 million USD, depending on the level of permission of the city.

Howells assembled a team of eight experts in the fields of AI, landfill excavation, waste management and data extraction, including a consultant who worked for a company that recovered data from its black box. space shuttle Columbia. Experts will be contracted to perform the mining process and will receive a bonus if the Bitcoins are successfully retrieved.

The plan outlined that the machines would dig up the trash, then sort it out at a facility set up nearby. Humans will participate in the screening process with the help of machines. The machine, called Max-AI, will be equipped with algorithms to scan images on a conveyor belt and command a robotic arm to pick up anything that looks like a hard drive.

After excavation, garbage will be cleaned and recycled as much as possible. The rest are buried back underground. Howells said he doesn't want the environment to be destroyed under any kind of impact. Once the project is over, the team plans to build a solar or wind farm on top of the landfill. However, this plan is still questioned by the authorities because it may cause ecological imbalance.

To avoid many people freely searching for hard drives, Howells invests a personal amount of money to install 24/7 surveillance cameras. Two Boston Dynamics robotic dogs are also deployed to "patrol" day and night.

Another challenge is that in case the hard drive is fortunately found, it is unlikely that it is still intact and can work.


Phil Bridge, a data recovery expert who has consulted for Howells, says that a hard drive's performance depends on what's known as a "platter" - a disk made of glass or metal that holds data. Whether. As long as the disk is not cracked, Howells has an 80-90% chance of recovering the data. But if the disk fails, the chance that the data can be recovered is very small. Bridge decided to join the project because it found it attractive. "The Howells' story captures anyone's curiosity. If we succeed, it will be the great mission of a lifetime," Bridge said.

According to the plan, if the hard drive is found, Howells will keep 30% of the value - equivalent to more than $ 54 million at current exchange prices. 30% goes to investors and the rest goes to all of Newport's 150,000 residents.

Hanspeter Jaberg and Karl Wendeborn, two venture capitalists in Switzerland and Germany, spent $11 million on Howells to carry out the mission. "It's obviously a needle in the bottom of a haystack and it's a very high-risk investment. But we'll put the money in as soon as Howells gets a nod from the authorities," Jaberg said.

In the absence of support from the city council, Howells said he would take the local government to court. However, this is not what the 36-year-old engineer wanted.

Pending the results of the Newport city government, Howells still detailed the mission and continued to monetize Bitcoin transactions.

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