WE’VE all done it … chucked out something you wish you hadn’t.

My low point was binning the one pair of smart shoes I had, only to discover I could never find another pair quite the same. They were rather fetching sling-backs with – most importantly – a low heel. However, they were kicking on 15 years old and the elastic had gone a bit. On reflection, I could easily have had them repaired.

So you’ve got to feel for James Howells.

Almost 10 years ago he threw away a hard drive during a clear out – forgetting about the Bitcoin on it.

Now, with the cryptocurrency worth an estimated £150 million, he is planning to spend millions digging up a Welsh landfill site in a bid to find the lost hard drive.

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If recovered, Howells said he would give 10% of the proceeds to turn his home city of Newport into a cryptocurrency hub.

After a decade, this does sound a little ambitious; a true needle-in-a-haystack operation.

But Howells has a grand, high-tech plan.

His proposal would use AI technology to operate a mechanical arm that would sift the rubbish, before then being picked by hand at a pop-up facility near the site.

Under the plans he will hire a number of environmental and data recovery experts, and while the search is ongoing employ robot dogs as security so no one else can try to steal the slippery hard drive.

However, the council has said excavating the site would pose an ecological risk.

Howells, an IT engineer, accidentally threw away the hard drive in 2013 after mining 8000 Bitcoins in the early stages of the currency’s development.

I can’t begin to get my head around the cryptocurrency concept, but I gather that this was a big mistake.

Newport council, which owns the landfill site, has repeatedly denied him access to dig the site on the grounds of environmental and access concerns.

Any project to search for the drive would require a huge manual task of digging through thousands of tonnes of compacted rubbish.

But Howells believes he now has the funding and expertise set up to do it in an effective and environmentally beneficial way for the site.

“Digging up a landfill is a huge operation in itself,” he said. “The funding has been secured. We’ve brought on an AI specialist. Their technology can easily be retrained to search for a hard drive.

“When we all come together, are capable of completing this task to a very high standard.”

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Finding the hard drive, though, is just part of the massive task. There is no guarantee that, if it is there, it is even in a recoverable state. But if it is, then its owner is set for a big-money landfill windfall likely to be worth many millions of pounds.

Howells said his donation to the city would be used to promote the use and understanding of cryptocurrency.

The first lesson will be: don’t chuck it in the bin.

If he does finally find his treasure in the dump, though, it really will be filthy lucre.

This originally piece appeared in our sister title, The National Scotland.