Inside the landfill hiding £1.5bn in Bitcoin that council bosses won’t let treasure hunters dig up

  • James Howells has seen the value of his hard disk rocket to more than £450m 

A landfill hiding £1.5billion in Bitcoin is being guarded round the clock with a network of video cameras to keep out metal detectors hoping to strike lucky.

Early crypto investor James Howells, 38, made the calamitous mistake of accidentally throwing away 8,000 Bitcoins ten years ago and is now launching a legal fight to get them back.

A misunderstanding saw his partner throw away the only hard drive containing the access to his crypto assets – which has now rocketed in value to more than £450m – as he had been temporarily storing it in a black bin bag.

Distraught James has been trying to recover the disc from the council run dump ever since and has narrowed the potential search down to an area which would mean excavating 100,000 tonnes of rubbish buried under the grassy hills.

However, a strict security cordon is in place at the the Newport Household Waste Recycling Centre in South Wales after the council refused him permission.

Computer expert James Howells (pictured), 38, who accidentally threw out his Bitcoin fortune has seen its value rocket to be more than £450m
Here is a look at the landfill which is hiding a whopping £1.5bn in Bitcoin
A general view of the Newport recycling and waste tip where James Howells believes the hard drive is
Security guards are on duty around the clock in case treasure seekers arrive with metal detectors

A worker at the recycling centre told Mail Online: ‘There’s 24-hour security – everyone who works here knows about what’s supposed to be buried in the landfill under the hills. 

‘But the other problem is, where would they start looking? The two small hills cover several acres, they’d never find it.

‘The owner has visited the site many times – if it’s here it’s under one of those two hills in the distance.

READ MORE: IT expert who accidentally threw his £153m Bitcoin fortune in the bin is barred from searching for the hard drive at his local landfill – despite raising £10m for the dig which ‘wouldn’t cost the council a penny’

‘He’s adamant but no one can know for sure if it’s here – some of the stuff that arrives is sent off to incinerators.

‘Even if the council gave permission it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. It would be impossible.

‘Unless the computer stuff has some sort of homing device on it, there’s just no way. The fella should just forget about it and move on.’

The latest explosion in Bitcoin value means if James still had his haul they would be worth £451,765,891 putting him on the super rich list alongside Hollywood star George Clooney, musician Sting and author Stephen King.

The landfill site is owned and run by Newport City Council which has an annual budget of £537.3m. If Bitcoins continue to rocket at the same rate, James’s lost fortune could be worth three times that amount by the end of the year.

James has offered the cash-strapped council a hefty slice of the money if they allow him and a team of experts to start digging.

But the council says the landfill where the hard disc is buried can’t be touched due to strict environmental regulations.

Even so, some refuse workers at the site believe James should be given a chance. One said: ‘If he has an idea where it could be then he should be allowed to look for it.

‘At the end of the day it’s his property, if it can be returned then why not?’ 

The recycling and waste tip is across the road from a busy retail park where shoppers have sympathy for James and his missing millions.

Pregnant mum-of-three Kelly Bathurst, 34, said: ‘The council should have taken him up on his offer to split the money.

‘I’m waiting for a council house but the council says it’s run out of money. They could have had a few million to build housing which the city badly needs.’ 

James pictured outside the recycling centre in Newport, Gwent in Wales
James has launched a legal fight against Newport City Council to get his hard drive back
A look at the house James lives in, which is a £180,000 terraced house in Newport

Father-of-two Jordan Williams, 39, of Newport said: ‘It must be like getting all six numbers on the lottery then realising you forgot to buy a ticket.

‘If it’s true, I feel sorry for the guy. He must be thinking he should be living on a luxury yacht in the Bahamas.’

James lives in a pebbledashed £180,000 terraced house in Newport and it’s from there he’s planning his next move against Newport City Council.

He said: ‘Unfortunately at present it doesn’t appear that they want to be co-operative and work together which will ultimately lead to us issuing high court proceedings against them in the near future.

‘Some experts believe that by the end of the year the price will rise to $25,000 per coin. That would make my hard drive worth £1.5billion. The council may be happy to leave that in a landfill but I’m not.

‘They want me to go away and forget about it, but how could anyone? Why should I back down? All I want is a chance to get my property back.’

James last saw the hard drive 10 years ago when he was having a clear out at his home.

He was going to take rubbish to the dump the next day and went to bed with a nagging feeling that something was wrong.

When he woke up his partner had put the waste bags in her car and driven them to the landfill thinking she was doing him a favour.

James has spent every waking moment trying to get the hard disc back and is being backed by a team of hedge fund investors who will take a share of the value if the bitcoin is successfully retrieved.

The landfill site is owned and run by Newport City Council which has an annual budget of £537.3m
Workers at the recycling centre said they think James ‘should forget about it and move on’
Many have likened the attempts to finding the hard drive as like finding a needle in a haystack

He is also hoping to use AI to find the buried hardware if he ever gets permission to excavate the site.

Speaking previously on how he foresees any search working, he said: ‘I have put together a full consortium of experts in the field to refute all of the claims that the council has said it has concerns over.

‘I’ve spoken to data recovery experts who have worked with Nasa on the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

‘They were able to recover from a shuttle that exploded and they don’t seem to think that being at a landfill will be a problem.’

Newport Council said: ‘We have been contacted multiple times since 2013 about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain bitcoins, which may or may not be in our landfill site.

‘The council has told Mr Howells multiple times that excavation is not possible under our environmental permit, and work of that nature would have a huge negative environmental impact on the surrounding area.

‘We have been very clear and consistent in our responses that we cannot assist Mr Howells in this matter. Our position has not changed. We will be offering no further comments on this issue as it takes up valuable officer time which could be spent on delivering services for the residents of Newport.’

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