In 2009, James Howells stored 7,500 Bitcoins on his PC, when the digital currency was practically worthless. He later forgot about the stash and accidentally threw away the hard drive at a council landfill site in 2013 near his home in Newport, Wales. Soon after, the price of Bitcoin soared and his ‘virtual wallet’ was valued around £220million. Consequently, Howells appealed to the council to search the city’s landfill site, offering a £55m reward to find it. However, since then, it keeps getting rejected, Newport Council insisting that “the cost of digging up the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds - without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order.”
In 2021, Howells claimed he has received financial backing from a hedge fund to pay for the search and so contacted engineers, environmentalists and data recovery experts from around the world in his bid to carry out the search, that would worth now around £340million. This consortium includes Ontrack, the data-recovery firm which, in 2003, managed to recover 99 per cent of the data from an hard drive from the Columbia space shuttle, six months after it plunged to Earth.