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Spent 11 million dollars digging through the garbage to find 8,000 Bitcoins

After nearly 10 years of perseverance, James Howells has raised 11 million USD in investment capital, ready to dig 110,000 tons of garbage to find a hard drive containing 8,000 Bitcoins.

The life of Howells, a 36-year-old former IT engineer in Wales (UK), changed completely in 2013 when he threw a hard drive containing thousands of Bitcoins in the trash.

I have two identical hard drives in a drawer. One has no data, the other contains 8,000 Bitcoins. I was going to throw away the empty hard drive, but I was wrong. The drive containing the Private Key was taken to a Newport City dump,” he said.

The dump where the Howells dumped the hard drive 9 years ago. Photo: Wales News.
The dump where the Howells dumped the hard drive 9 years ago. Photo: Wales News.

The above Bitcoins were obtained from cryptocurrency mining in 2013 and are currently worth about $181 million.

Over the years, Howells has worked tirelessly to get Newport City Council permission to dig the dump in search of his life’s technological treasure. However, local authorities are concerned that this is expensive and harmful to the environment. Howells has yet to receive regulatory approval, but has drawn up a detailed plan, worth $11 million, to convince the city council.

The former engineer admits digging 110,000 tons of trash sounds like an impossible task. But he still raised $11 million from venture capital funds to launch the project. To filter out the huge amount of trash, the longest process can be three years at a cost of 11 million USD and the fastest is 18 months with 6 million USD, depending on how much the city allows.

Howells assembled a team of eight experts in the fields of AI, landfill excavation, waste management, and data extraction, including a consultant who used to work for a company that recovered data from the box. black space shuttle Columbia. Experts will be contracted to perform the mining process and will receive a bonus if the Bitcoin is successfully obtained.

The plan outlined that the machines would dig up the trash, then sort it out at a facility set up nearby. Humans will participate in the screening process with the help of machines. The machine, called Max-AI, will be equipped with algorithms to scan images on a conveyor belt and command a robotic arm to pick up anything that looks like a hard drive.

After digging, garbage will be cleaned and recycled as much as possible. The rest is buried back underground. Howells said he did not want the environment to be destroyed in any way. Once the project is over, the team plans to build a solar or wind farm on top of the landfill. However, this option is still suspected by the authorities because it may upset the ecological balance.

To avoid many people breaking in to find the hard drive, Howells invests a personal amount of money to install 24/7 surveillance cameras. Two Boston Dynamics robotic dogs were also mobilized to “patrol” day and night.

However, another challenge with Howells is that in the event of luck finding the hard drive, it is unlikely that it will still be intact and workable.

Phil Bridge, a data recovery expert, says that the performance of a hard drive depends on what is called a platter – a disk made of glass or metal that holds data. As long as the magnetic disk is not cracked, Howells has an 80-90% chance of recovering the data. But if the disk fails, the chance that the data can be recovered is very small. Bridge decided to join the project because it found it attractive. “The Howells story captured everyone’s curiosity. If we succeed, it will be the big mission of a lifetime,” said Bridge.

Magnetic disk in HDD is the element for data recovery

According to the plan, if the hard drive is found, Howells will keep 30% or more than $ 54 million at current exchange prices. 30% goes to investors and the rest goes to all of Newport’s 150,000 residents.

Hanspeter Jaberg and Karl Wendeborn, two venture capitalists in Switzerland and Germany, spent $11 million on Howells to carry out the mission. “It’s clearly a needle in the bottom of a haystack and it’s a very high-risk investment. But we will pump the money in as soon as Howells gets the nod from the authorities,” Jaberg said.

Pending the results of the Newport city government, Howells is still presenting the details of the plan and continues to monetize Bitcoin transactions.