IT worker who binned over £300 million of Bitcoin hires NASA experts to find it

James Howells and a recycling centre
Mr Howells fears the value of his Bitcoins could increase to more than one billion dollars. Credit: PA

A man who 'unintentionally' threw a hard drive containing Bitcoin now worth £340m in the bin has hired NASA data experts to find his fortune.

James Howells from Newport has spent the last eight years trying to persuade Newport City Council to search its landfill site for the missing drive after he dumped the 7,500 units of cryptocurrency.

In 2013, the value of the coins could be counted in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, but has since skyrocketed to more than £300m.

The IT worker is hoping that the company Ontrack can help him as it was once hired by NASA to recover the hard drive from a Columbia space shuttle after it crashed to Earth in 2003.

The Minneapolis company believes there is an 80% to 90% chance James’ wealth of Bitcoins can be recovered using AI technology- if the hard drive hasn’t cracked.

The cost of digging up the Newport landfill could run into millions of pounds.

Mr Howells has offered Newport council a quarter of the fortune found but the council are still refusing to give permission to search the rubbish tip.

He accidentally threw away the drive containing the cryptocurrency when he was cleaning out his office but is doing everything he can to find it.

He told The Sun: "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.

"The current valuation is £342million but around a week ago it was at its peak of £420million.”

Mr Howells fears the value of his Bitcoins could soar to more than one billion dollars by the time council bosses decide to act.

Newport City Council says it has been contacted a number of times about the possibility of retrieving a piece of IT hardware said to contain Bitcoins.

A spokeswoman said: "The first time was several months after Mr Howells first realised the hardware was missing.

"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.

"The council has also told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.

"Even if we were able to agree to his request, there is the question of who would meet the cost if the hard drive was not found or was damaged to such an extent that the data could not be recovered.

"We have, therefore, been clear that we cannot assist him in this matter."