Welsh man claims he can pay for landfill dig in search of lost 8,000 bitcoin

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A Welsh man who accidentally threw away a hard drive containing 8,000 bitcoin almost a decade ago claims he has “secured funding” for a landfill excavation to recover his bags and, if found, give 10% back to the community.

Last year, Newport council denied James Howells permission to dig. Among its concerns, it remained unclear who would foot the bill if the bitcoin — now worth $182 million — couldn’t be recovered. Now, the 37-year-old claims to have secured funding either way.

In an attempt to sway government officials to let him dig for the bitcoin he’s also promised:

  • £50 to be given to every person in the city of Newport.
  • Crypto-based terminals to be installed in every city shop.
  • The installment of an electrical power plant powered by wind turbines or solar panels.
  • To build a “community owned” bitcoin mining facility from this green power, which Newport can profit from. 

Howells told the BBC that 10% of the bitcoin proceeds ($18.2 million at press time) will be used to fund these projects and turn Newport into a “crypto-mecca.”

“This isn’t just for me to get rich. We’ve got a whole list of incentives, of good things, good causes we’d like to do for the community.” However, it’s still a hard pass for the local council. 

Read more: Welsh man recruits ‘consortium of experts’ to find lost Bitcoin worth $350M

Council won’t budge on bitcoin landfill expedition

In 2013, Howells threw his bitcoin cold wallet into the trash while cleaning his office. He initally lost 7,500 BTC but now the wallet address holds roughly 8,000 BTC through a series of deposits from unknown addresses. The council has since continuously denied Howells a permit to tear up and search the trash heap. 

“Excavation is not possible under our environmental permit. Work of that nature would have huge negative environmental impact,” read the latest Newport council statement (via BBC).

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

Such a definite no didn’t stop him recruiting a team of experts to help his efforts. Howells sought environmentalists, engineers, and a NASA data recovery expert. Now he claims to have on board an AI specialist whose tech can be “retrained to search for the hard drive.”

“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.”

Last year, Howells reckoned the BTC is piled 15 metres deep. Given the almost 10 year gap and immense weight of the landfill on top, it’s unlikely the hard drive will still work.

Landfill bitcoin to fund “crypto-Mecca”

But how much could Howells’s crypto promises cost? There are roughly 320,000 people living in Newport. £50 to everyone would cost £16 million ($19.5 million).

Howells claims the landfill site dig would cost £11 million ($13.4 million). Assuming he wants 500 mid-range mining rigs, it could cost £6.2 million ($7.6 million).

With an output of 700 watts per mining rig, the wind turbines would have to cover 375kwh for all 500 rigs. Four commercial turbines capable of producing 100kwh could cost £1.38 million ($1.68 million).

The cost of a payments terminal that accepts crypto can come to £150. One high street in Newport contains 82 active retail shops. For that one high street alone, Howells would need to cough up £12,300 ($15,000).

From these rough estimates, it could cost Howells $42.2 million dollars to carry out his goals of turning Newport into a crypto hub. That’s about 23% of his current holdings — more than double the 10% he allocated.

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