In 2013, James Howells – a citizen of Newport, Wales – mistakenly threw away his iPhone-sized hard drive containing 8,000 BTC. To find his lost possessions (worth around $169 million as of now), the 36-year-old man reportedly came up with an $11 million master plan involving robot dogs and artificial intelligence-powered machines.
A Needle in the Haystack
The unfortunate story of James Howells started in 2009 when he mined 8,000 BTC. Back then, the primary cryptocurrency was worth mere cents, so he did not pay much attention to his stash. In 2013, the Welsh was reorganizing his desk and threw away all unnecessary items.
Unlucky for him, he had two identical laptop hard drives – one empty and one with 8,000 BTC in it. Needless to say, the latter ended up in a rubbish bag and now lays underneath 110,000 tons of garbage.
Howells spent the next nine years seeking permission from the local authorities to dig for his hard drive. Newport’s city council, though, denied his requests multiple times, warning that the search could damage the environment and ruin the land.
Desperate to find his crypto holdings (worth $169 million at current prices), the 36-year-old man presented an $11 million proposal to the authorities, Business Insider revealed. The plan includes the employment of robot dogs, human labor, and artificial intelligence machinery, which should explore the area in a way that does not harm the natural landscape.
According to his calculations, the search could take up to three years. The machines would dig up the garbage and prepare the landfill for exploration. Then, 24-hour CCTV cameras, robot dogs, and AI machines would sweep the area day and night until spotting the hard drive. Once the mission gets completed, the team would clean the garbage ground and recycle the litter.
“We do not want to damage the environment in any way. If anything, we want to leave everything in a better condition,” Howells said.
Nonetheless, Newport’s authorities do not seem open to his idea. A council representative told the media that the proposal still poses significant ecological risks that are unacceptable.
Even if Howells finds his hard drive, it might be damaged from all the years of being underneath tons of garbage. However, the Welsh estimated that if the “platter” – a disc made of metal or glass that holds the data – is not broken, chances are 80% to 90% that the device would work.
To show his gratitude, he vowed to give 30% of his crypto holdings to the workers that would help him in the mission, distribute $60 in bitcoin to each resident of Newport and keep only 30% of the total stash for himself.
Another Similar Case
Keeping the hard drive safe is not the only step cryptocurrency investors should take. Those should also store their private keys (a password that unlocks the wallet) at an appropriate place known by them and accessible at all times.
However, the German-born programmer – Stefan Thomas – did not pay much attention to that. As CryptoPotato reported last year, the man who had 7,002 BTC ($148 million at today’s prices) lost his password and could not cash out his possessions.
At the beginning of 2021, when the leading digital asset was worth significantly more, the man tried everything he could to find the private keys. He even used eight out of his ten possible options to guess the correct words combination but to no avail.
“I would just lay in bed and think about it. Then, I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again,” he admitted back then.
Although he has two more combinations to try, Thomas has accepted the fact that he will stay a millionaire only on paper.