A NEWPORT man who mistakenly threw away a hard drive in 2013 with Bitcoin now worth more than £210 million, has again appealed to the council for permission to search the city's landfill site.

James Howells, a 35-year-old IT engineer from Newport, was working from home at the time. After having a clear out, he realised he had thrown away the hard drive containing 7,500 Bitcoins rather than the empty hard drive he had meant to dispose of.

Mr Howells has previously asked the council for permission to search the site, but his requests have been denied. He has now offered 25 per cent, around £52.5 million, of the value of the Bitcoin in the form of a Covid Relief Fund for the city's residents.


"It’s quite a lot of money still sat there in the landfill," he said.

"The way the landfill operated in 2013 was when a general waste bin was full, it was given a serial number, it was dragged off to the open pit and it was buried. It was also given a grid reference number.

"So what that means is, if I could access the landfill records, I could identify the week that I threw the hard drive away; I could identify the serial number of the bin that it was in; and then I could identify where the grid reference is located.

"I’d like the opportunity to sit down with the decision makers and present to them an action plan for what we want to do. I hope we can get that.

"I’ve got backing from a hedge fund who are willing to put up the funds for the project.

“We only want to search in one specific area. We want to employ an inflatable structure to create an air-tight seal around that area to stop landfill gases escaping.

“We are happy to put money in an Escrow account; if we don’t do things properly, the council won’t be left to foot the bill.”

Mr Howells said he had confidence the Bitcoins would be recoverable despite years in the landfill.

“There is no guarantee of that [it still working] because of the environment it’s been in, but there are things that give me confidence," he said.

“The outside case might be rusted. But the inside disk, where the data is stored, there should be a good chance that it still works.

“I believe there still will be a chance. But the longer this drags on though, it’s less likely to be a possibility.”

Mr Howells said he would like to make his latest offer in the form of a Covid relief fund for people in Newport.

“There’s a lot of people who are struggling at the moment and could do with some help,” he said. "I think that would be a very good use of that money.

“The specifics haven’t been worked out yet, but the idea would be everyone can apply once, and it would be no questions asked."

A spokeswoman for Newport City Council said: “Newport City Council has been contacted a number of times since 2014 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain Bitcoins.

“The first time was several months after Mr Howells first realised the hardware was missing.

“The cost of digging up the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds - without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order.

“The council has also told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.

“Even if we were able to agree to his request, there is the question of who would meet the cost if the hard drive was not found or was damaged to such an extent that the data could not be recovered.

“We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter.”