A NEWPORT man who mistakenly threw away a hard drive containing Bitcoin now worth around £330 million has recruited NASA experts in his bid to retrieve it.

IT engineer James Howells, 36, accidentally binned the hard drive – containing 7,500 Bitcoins – instead of an empty one during an office spring clean in 2013.

The hard drive is now thought to be sitting in a landfill in Newport, and Mr Howells has appealed to the council for permission to search for the storage device – even offering 25 per cent, around £52.5 million, of the value of the Bitcoin – however this was refused.


Bitcoin is a digital form of currency that operates independently of central banking systems and is rather sent directly between owners.

In a bid to carry out his search, Mr Howells has contacted engineers, environmentalists and data recovery experts – including one who worked with NASA.

He said: "I have put together a full consortium of experts in the field to refute all of the claims that the council has said it has concerns over.

"I've spoken to data recovery experts who have worked with NASA on the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

"They were able to recover from a shuttle that exploded and they don't seem to think that being at a landfill will be a problem."

Mr Howells has called to meet with council representatives in order to arrange for a feasibility study to be conducted.

He said: "The current valuation is $454 million but around a week ago it was at its peak of $556 million.

"The council say they worry about who will meet the cost if it's not recoverable but all of that would be part of a signed contract.

"I'm asking them for a three-month feasibility study so we could sit down outline our plans and they could put forward their concerns and we can answer them, but they won't give me that."

Mr Howells said the search was expected to take between nine and 12 months, and would be aided by specially employed AI technology.

He said his plan has been backed by hedge funds who are willing to foot the bill for the cost of the search as well as the equipment involved.

Having studied aerial photographs of the site, Mr Howells believes the hard drive is in a 200 metre squared area and could be 15 metres deep.

Newport City Council said Mr Howells had made repeated requests for help - but it was unable to assist him.

A spokeswoman 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."