A Bitcoin currently costs around 21,100 US dollars. If you had 8000 of them, the virtual money would be worth around 168 million US dollars. It’s no wonder that a Welshman is obsessed with finding his old hard drive – on which this very money is stored.

Nine years ago a Welsh man accidentally dumped a hard drive. He thought it was empty. In fact, he parked access to 8,000 bitcoins on this data medium, which he had created from March 2009, i.e. as one of the first people in the world. At that time, however, the coins were almost worthless, on March 28, 2009 the price was fractions of a cent and basically had no measurable value. Its value today: More than 168 million US dollars. The previous all-time high was even more than half a billion.

No wonder James Howells, that’s the man’s name, is obsessed with salvaging his hard drive from the heaps of rubbish at the local landfill. If he were given a second chance, he and his helpers would have been taken care of in one fell swoop.

In fact, Howells undertook first rescue attempts shortly after his mishap, but failed due to the operators of the landfill. The explanation: Digging up the piles of rubbish in Newport, Wales is too expensive, dangerous and harmful to the environment.

The new rescue plan costs eleven million US dollars

The man recently told Business Insider magazine what his new plan for salvaging the virtual treasure should look like. This is also borne out by a YouTube video of former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond speaking to Howells and accompanying him to a meeting with experts.

With a team of eight specialists, Howells plans to dig through 100,000 tons of garbage in around three years. He wants to proceed with a system: Heavy machines should lift the garbage onto a treadmill, where people and an artificial intelligence with eagle eyes should keep an eye out for hard drives.

He also wants to have two Boston Dynamics robots patrol the landfill. These should not only keep treasure hunters away and provide more security, but also scan the garbage on the ground for its hardware. The man puts the total cost of the treasure hunt at eleven million US dollars – apparently he found investors in Germany and Switzerland who were willing to pay in advance.

Plans are big for the future should the Welshman find his hard drive – and remember the password. In the video with Richard Hammond, he talks about wanting to help the residents of the city financially and helping the city with certain projects.

City continues to wall

And even though the money at stake is huge and Howell’s intentions aren’t aimed solely at retiring as early as possible, the operators of the landfill continue to stonewall. A city official told Business Insider: “There is nothing Mr Howells can come up with that would get the City Council to agree. His proposals pose a significant environmental risk that we cannot accept.”

Should it still not be possible to convince the city of his search, Howells wants to go to court. So far he has refrained from doing so because working with Newport is important to him, he explained. In the meantime, they say, he doesn’t want to think too much about what if he found the record. “It just makes you crazy,” quotes “Business Insider” from the unlucky bird. One may ask oneself whether it is not already too late for that. In the video with Hammond, a friend reveals Howells has been obsessed with the quest for years.

The joy could be followed by worse frustration

The whole story also disregards the problems that could arise after the hard drive was found. It starts with the condition of the hardware: The hard drive, which wasn’t built for outdoor use, sat in a landfill for nine years. That means harsh winters, hot summers, lots of rain and endless bumps.

The risk that the data discs are corroded or severely damaged is therefore high. Howells is confident and said none of this would be a problem as long as the windows weren’t cracked.

As mentioned, a final hurdle would be the password. Each bitcoin wallet file is normally protected with a password – and there is no “forgot password” button. Howells wouldn’t be the first person to have access to the file but fail because of a misplaced password. Whether fate would be better than knowing the bitcoins in a landfill remains debatable.

What: Business Insider