ST JOHN’S- In a desperate bid to put a stop to the rampant theft of copper and metal being plundered from businesses and private homes, Cabinet has imposed a sudden 60-day ban on scrap metal exports – with immediate effect.
The announcement, made from OBSERVER Radio’s studio by National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort yesterday, caught dealers by surprise – triggering meetings via conference calls, one dealer reported yesterday.
Two dealers contacted by OBSERVER Media declined to comment until a meeting with their colleagues today. But one of the men said he hopes provisions are in place to allow them to trade what they already have in stock.
“We have already invested money in material so what are they saying to us and our customers?” he posited, promising comment after the dealers’ meeting.
In announcing the temporary ban Dr. Cort said, “(The thefts) is an area of major concern not only to law enforcement but the wider government. When you look at the incidents of copper thefts, and more generally scrap metal dealings, that situation has escalated within the past few months.”
In the first half of the year, Antigua Public Utilities Authority, seemingly the most targeted by thieves, reported half a million dollars in losses due to the theft of copper wire and other metal materials and damage to property.
And, for the months of August and September, APUA reported at least five incidents of copper wire theft from cellular and telephone sites, generators and even from streetlights.
Several other businesses and residents have also been plundered, having air conditioning units stripped of wire.
During the period of the ban, a committee will be established to examine the issues pertaining to the scrap metal industry to include the increasing theft of copper.
Senator and attorney Joanne Massiah will head the committee along with a representative from Customs, the police force, scrap metal dealers and the ministry of trade.
Meantime, the minister also said there may be need to revisit the Old Metal and Marine Stores Act Cap 301 since “it is an old and antiquated bit of legislation governing the whole issue of scrap metal . . . inadequate to deal with challenges faced today.”
He said under the Act, dealers are required to have licences to trade, but as far as he is aware, it is not being utilised.
The issue of scrap metal/copper theft has also been plaguing Anguilla, Guyana and Jamaica – forcing similar temporary stringent action by government. (Antigua Observer)