A British man who accidentally threw away his hard drive with bitcoins now valued at more than $280 million is asking local officials to let him search local landfills.
Even if the external part of the drive was damaged or rusted, the platter inside may still be intact.
"There is a good chance the platter inside the drive is still intact. Data recovery experts could then rebuild the drive or read the data directly from the platter," James Howells said.
He threw away the drive in 2013 while clearing out his home in Newport, Wales.
The 35-year-old IT engineer said he had two identical laptop hard drives. He mistakenly threw away the wrong one. The drive reportedly contained a cryptographic "private key" to his stash of bitcoins.
Howells claims his wallet contained 7,500 bitcoins. At current prices, the stash would be worth around $280 million. As of Monday, bitcoin was trading at around $36,500 per coin.
Searching landfill sites is illegal in the UK and they are off limits to the public. If Howell proceeds with the search without approval, he may be charged with trespass.
To convince local officials, Howell had reportedly offered to donate 25% of his bitcoins - worth more than $70 million - if he is able to recover the disk. The money will be placed into a COVID-19 relief fund for the city.
Newport City Council has yet to approve Howell's request. Officials have cited environmental and funding concerns in rejecting his requests
"Without even having heard our plan of action or without being given a chance to present our mitigations to their concerns regarding the environment, it's just a straight up 'no' every time," Howell said.
A Newport City Council representative said Howell's request can't be approved owing to the city's licensing permits. The cost of digging up, storing and treating the dug up waste would cost the city millions, the representative said.