Nick Hartley BBC News gals
Almost 10 years ago, James Howells threw away a hard drive while cleaning it, forgetting the bitcoins on it.
Today, the value of its contents is estimated at 184 million dollars (117,961,490,000 FCFA), and Howells plans to spend millions digging up land in Newport (United Kingdom) to find the missing hard drive.
If he gets it back, he said he will donate 10% of the proceeds from the sale to make the city a cryptocurrency hub.
But local authorities have already said that digging up the land could pose a risk to the environment.
Howells, a computer engineer, accidentally threw away the hard drive in 2013 after mining 8,000 bitcoins in the early stages of the currency’s development.
Bitcoin’s value fluctuates wildly. For example, Howells Holdings was valued at around $250 million in January 2021, but with a sharp decline earlier in the year, it has now dropped significantly.
Newport City Council, which manages the land Howells believes is Hard Drive, has consistently refused him permission for excavation work on environmental and access grounds.
Recovering the hard drive would require enormous manual excavation work to remove the thousands of tons of compacted debris that had accumulated at the site over decades.
But the systems engineer believes he now has the funds and knowledge to do so in an efficient manner that benefits the site’s environment.
“Digging a plot of land is a big undertaking,” he explains.
“Financially secure, we’ve hired an artificial intelligence expert. His technology will be trained to search the hard drive with ease.”
Not only that: “We also have an environmental team. In fact, we have a whole team of experts with different skills, and if we all come together, we can do the job of maintaining the highest standards.”
“Significant Environmental Risk”
But finding the hard drive is only part of this monumental task. If discovered, there is no guarantee that his health will recover.
But in that case, its owner is ready to receive a mega amount, although the actual amount depends on the direction of the volatile cryptocurrency.
Either way, it’s several million dollars.
From there, Howells pledged to donate 10% of profits to the community. He already has in mind how he will invest it: “We have a whole list of ventures,” he adds.
“One of the things we want to do with the current landscape is after clearing and reclaiming the land, we want to install a power generation facility there, install some wind turbines. We want to build a community-based bitcoin mining facility and create cryptocurrencies for the people of Newport using the clean electricity generated by the turbines,” he said. He explains.
Among his many plans are giving every Newport resident about $60 in bitcoin and installing cryptocurrency-based terminals in every store.
But officials responded to Howells’ every request with a denial.
“We have legal obligations to manage the land,” a spokesman said.
“This includes managing the environmental risk to the site and surrounding areas. Mr Howells’ proposals pose a significant environmental risk which we cannot accept and which is not even considered due to the conditions of the land management permit.”