Ban lifted, heavy metal dealers exhale

A pile of scrap metal at the side of a road in Antigua.

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Dealers in heavy metal will resume trading from today, as Cabinet has lifted the 60-day ban on exportation of the material.

However, those who trade copper still have to wait at least until month-end before they get reprieve.

Public Relations Officer of the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Association, Everette Jonas, told OBSERVER Media he was informed the ban was lifted last Tuesday after a Cabinet decision.

On September 27, National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort had announced the ban, with immediate effect.

He said a committee would be set up to review a number of aspects of the trade and the issue of constant theft of metals, particularly copper wire, from businesses and private residents.

Jonas said he and his colleagues welcome the partial lift that resulted following talks between the association of seven dealers and Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.

“We wrote to the prime minister requesting his intervention and we had made a proposal emphasising that we are quite understanding of the problem, but we asked that they would separate the scrap metal from the dealings with the copper because they’re really two separate types of shipments,” Jonas said.

The official said Cabinet accepted the association’s position as it too recognised the principle problem was with the matter of copper theft.

He said heavy metal dealers suffered severely during the six weeks the ban was in place as many depend entirely on the trade for income.

“Everybody is feeling the squeeze. It was challenging even at the best of times and when we couldn’t (do business) it was even more challenging,” he said.

While the association empathises with copper traders still affected by the ban, Jonas said the body has a responsibility to work with the authorities until necessary safeguards are put in place to protect residents from having their property plundered for copper.

In recent months the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) reported incurring thousands of dollars in expenses due to theft of copper wire from several of its cellular and telephone sites, streetlights and other workstations.

Police are also investigating reports of businesses and private homes having their air conditioning units raided for copper wire.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)