Newport: Can AI help find lost £227m Bitcoin fortune? –


A man who claims he lost a fortune in Bitcoin to landfill now plans to use AI to locate it.
James Howells, 38, has spent the last decade trying to retrieve a discarded hard drive reportedly containing 8,000 units of the coveted cryptocurrency.
He said it was worth £4m when it was mistakenly binned, but now estimates its value to have risen to around £227m.
But for 10 years Newport council has refused an excavation of the tip site.
IT engineer Mr Howells, from Newport, had his hard drive – which is roughly the size of a mobile phone – accidentally thrown away in 2013.
Since then he has repeatedly petitioned the city's council to grant him access to the dump to search for it.
And he's so convinced that it's buried under the tonnes of rubbish that he's pledged to donate 25% of any funds retrieved from the hard drive – a potential £50m – to various schemes in the local community.
"I've narrowed down the area where I need to dig, based on the amount of time that's gone by," Mr Howells said
"It's a disused section of the site – 100,000 tonnes of a total 1.4m tonnes.
"I'd then take the landfill to a unit where it'll be placed on a conveyor belt and subjected to an AI scanning system.
"And if the AI recognises anything that looks like a hard drive it'll be flagged and removed."
He added: "Having spoken to staff who used to work at the landfill I'm sure the hard drive didn't go through any recycling or crushing process at the time either."
Mr Howells argued the council's environmental concerns over the site being dug up were unnecessary.
"What I'm proposing will be carried out to the highest of standards, and I've got some of the best people in the excavation business involved," he said.
"I've employed two barristers and a King's Counsel, all of whom are prepared to take this all the way – right up to appealing [to] the Supreme Court if necessary."
A spokesperson for Newport council said: "We have been contacted many 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 that work of that nature would have a huge negative environmental impact on the surrounding area."
It added that the council is the only body authorised to carry out operations on the site, and said it would be "offering no further comments on this issue as it takes up valuable officer time".
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