A Welsh Bitcoin enthusiast named James Howells is threatening legal action against his local city council after they denied his efforts to retrieve a hard drive containing 7,500 bitcoins. Howells, who believes the misplaced hard drive is buried in a landfill, has been at odds with the Newport City Council for ten years. With the current value of the lost bitcoins estimated at $194 million, Howells is determined to unearth the drive.
Howells and his team have sent a letter to the council, setting a deadline of September 18 to grant them permission to dig in the landfill. If the council refuses, Howells plans to pursue a judicial review to challenge their denial. He argues that it is unjust for the council to dismiss his request without even considering the value of the lost item, whether it be bitcoin, gold, or diamonds.
This is not the first attempt by Howells to convince the council to allow him to search for the hard drive. In January 2021, he offered them 25% of the bitcoins’ value if they permitted the excavation. However, his proposal was ignored. In July 2021, Howells revealed plans to use x-ray and artificial intelligence (AI) tools, along with the help of a retired site manager from the landfill, to locate the buried hard drive.
In the letter to the council, Howells also committed to covering all excavation expenses and making contributions to the community. He has gained support from external investors who are rallying behind his endeavor. Howells questions the council’s decision to spend significant amounts of money to prevent him from digging a hole, especially in the current economic climate.
While the chances of successfully recovering a hard drive lost in a landfill for ten years are slim, it is not entirely impossible. If the hard drive was protected by a seal or covering when it was discarded and if it settled in an area with minimal moisture and chemical seepage, there is a possibility that it could be preserved. Even if the physical condition of the hard drive is decent, data extraction remains a challenge. However, advancements in technology since 2013 may improve the chances of successful data recovery.
Ultimately, the outcome of James Howells’ legal battle with the Newport City Council remains to be seen. The case raises questions about the responsibility of local authorities in dealing with lost valuable items and the potential for legal disputes over their retrieval.