A Newport man who threw away a computer hard drive containing what he believes to be a £150million bitcoin fortune wants to use robot dogs to find it - buried under thousands of tonnes of rubbish in a massive landfill.

Computer engineer James Howells, 37, accidentally dumped the hard drive during an office clear-out in 2013, when he threw out the wrong set of parts.

It is now sitting somewhere in a council rubbish tip in Newport, south Wales - and nearly 10 years later, James is plotting a £10million hunt to find it.

He has written out two proposals to the council, which could be backed by hedge fund money depending on how much of the site he would be allowed to search.

The plans include experts in landfill excavation, environmental waste management and data recovery - as well as security in the form of robot  "spot" dogs who would patrol the area to ensure nobody else tries to locate the device.

Using AI technology a mechanical arm would filter through the rubbish before it was picked by hand.

Mr Howells has been told his planned exploration of the rubbish dump would cause an environmental risk, despite his vows to make the search safe.

He has even offered the council a share of the money, pledged to hand bitcoin shares to residents, and fund the opening of a crypto-currency hub if successful.

He said: "Digging up a landfill is a huge operation in itself.

"The funding has been secured. We've brought on an AI specialist. Their technology can easily be retrained to search for a hard drive.

"We've also got an environmental team on board. We've basically got a well-rounded team of various experts, with various expertise, which, when we all come together, are capable of completing this task to a very high standard."

Mr Howells' story has captured the imagination of technology lovers around the world, and former Top Gear host Richard Hammond has recently made a documentary with him on his search.

Despite the value of bitcoin plummeting in recent months, Mr Howells has "no doubt" that the price will rise again and says if his hard drive was found and working, he would use the money to give back to the people of Newport.

"We've got a whole list of incentives, of good cases we'd like to do for the community," he said.

"One of the things we'd like to do on the actual landfill site, once we've cleaned it up and recovered that land is put a power generation facility, maybe a couple of wind turbines.

"We'd like to set up a community owned mining facility which is using that clean electricity to create bitcoin for the people of Newport."

He previously spoke of how Nasa experts would be part of the team trying to restore the hard drive if it was found.

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."

He believes the search was expected to take 9-12 months and would be aided by specially employed AI technology.

Mr Howells says his plan has been backed by hedge funds, who are willing to stump up for the cost of the search - as well as the equipment involved - in exchange for the lion's share of his fortune.

However, he says council chiefs in Newport, Gwent, won't entertain the idea, or allow him to meet with officials to outline his plans.
Newport City Council previously said James had made repeated requests for help - but it was unable to assist him.

A spokesperson said: "We have statutory duties which we must carry out in managing the landfill site.

"Part of this is managing the ecological risk to the site and the wider area. Mr. Howells' proposals pose significant ecological risk which we cannot accept, and indeed are prevented from considering by the terms of our permit."

This year, the cryptocurrency market suffered a catastrophic crash.

The value of Bitcoin, which back in May 2021 cost £42,000, plummeted to around £15,000 back in June, and at the time of writing the price is hovering around £20,000.

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Last month a 29 year-old Scottish cryptocurrency investor, who lost thousands during the crash, told The Guardian: "I had built every dream I had on there.

"So, when it came crashing down, my whole life came crashing down.

“I would drink and puke and drink and puke and drink and hope to keep it in, so the pain would go away. I felt like dying."

One expert, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, commented at the time: "This is the first time we’ve seen a financial bubble coupled with religious, cult‑like behaviour and an investment strategy not seen before in history.

“I would tell people who are still holding bitcoin: ask your grandmother if the idea makes sense.

"And if it doesn’t make sense to her, it doesn’t make sense … get out.

"Do something productive with your life.”

Additional reporting by Rebecca Wilks.