The British investor who lost 7,500 bitcoins in 2013 is back with a new plan. To get his hands on his treasure of cryptocurrencies, he now offers to search the landfill with the help of two robot dogs. Despite his tenacity, the municipality still firmly refuses to grant him access to the recycling center.
In 2013, James Howellsa British computer scientist, inadvertently threw a hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins in the trash. Following the surge in the price of Bitcoin, this lost treasure is now valued at more than 154 million euros. Note that the young man had himself mined bitcoins with his computer in 2010.
“I had two identical hard drives and threw away the bad one”explains James Howells.
Hearing about the rise of Bitcoin, the computer engineer suddenly remembered the existence of the hard drive a few months later. Determined to recover his loot, he did everything to locate the hard drive. According to him, it is in a huge dump of Newport, Wales (UK). Unsurprisingly, the computer scientist was unable to find the device in this ocean of waste. By studying aerial photographs of the landfill, he was nevertheless able to determine that the hard drive is in an area of 200 m².
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Two robot dogs to the rescue
Despite the obstacles that stand before him, he does not let go. Since 2013, the Welsh engineer has been trying by all means to get his hands on his stock of cryptocurrencies. Last year, he also requested the help of NASA engineers specializing in data recovery. These experts notably worked on the accident of the space shuttle Columbia.
More recently, James Howells came up with a new plan to locate the precious hard drive. The engineer’s new strategy is to deploy two robot dogs designed by Boston Dynamics within the landfill. Worthy of the terrifying machines seen in the series black mirrorthe robots are full of smart sensors and are able to move around independently.
Asked by Business Internthe young Briton explains that the robots can sweep the ground in search of the hard drive. To oversee the work, Howells also plans to hire workers and experts in artificial intelligence, waste management and data recovery. The estimated cost of the operation is $11 million. The computer specialist explains that he obtained financing through two venture capitalists.
Unfortunately for him, the municipality of Newport firmly refuses to grant him access to the landfill or to help him in his efforts. Over the years, however, he has submitted several requests to the municipal council. To convince the authorities, the engineer also proposed tooffer 25% of his treasure to the City of Newport if he finds his digital wallet. In vain. The local government remains inflexible.
“His proposals pose a significant ecological risk, which we cannot accept and cannot take into consideration”explains the municipality, stating that “nothing that Mr. Howells could present to us” won’t change the situation.
Last year, the municipality had already hinted that it was hard drive unlikely to be found during excavations. There is “no guarantee that the object sought will be found or still functional”said the municipality. For his part, the Welshman believes that these repeated refusals are proof of the incompetence of the authorities.
Obviously, James Howells is not the only investor to have lost all of his bitcoins inadvertently. According to a study by Chainalysis, a company specializing in blockchain analysis, 20% of the 18.5 million bitcoins already mined are blocked on inaccessible wallets.