AG: Scrap metal is big business

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC. File photo/Sureash Cholai
Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC. File photo/Sureash Cholai

ATTORNEY General Reginald Armour, SC, says the domestic scrap metal industry is big business, attracting those who engage in it legally and those who do not. The actions of the latter have threatened TT's national security.

Armour made those observations when he opened debate on the Scrap Metal Bill 2022 in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

"In 2020, the global trade of scrap metal was valued at approximately US$128 billion."

The United States, United Kingdom and Japan are among the largest generators of scrap metal.

China, India and Turkey are among the largest importers of this commodity.

Armour said data from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) showed a sharp increase in scrap metal exports from $82 million in 2009 to $285 million in 2021.

On the positive side, scrap metal provides viable business opportunities for several small and micro industries.

But Armour observed the industry has also witnessed "a concurrent increase in the larceny of various metals that support the country's critical infrastructure on a scale which has threatened our very national security capacity."

The Telecommunications Services of TT (TSTT), TT Electricity Commission (T&TEC) and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) were all victims of the theft of millions of dollars worth of cable and iron pipes.

In August, Armour said, police recovered $1 million in iron and steel poles, belonging to the Works and Transport Ministry, at a scrapyard in Central Trinidad.

In July, some of TSTT's underground fibre optic and copper installations in San Fernando were vandalised and stolen.

Armour said the incidents interrupted communications services "to tens of thousands of customers."

Electrical cables were also stolen from a WASA booster station in California.

Armour said the estimated damage to that facility was $400,000.

The private sector was not spared.

Armour said in June, the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) called on police to stop thieves who were targeting businesses in Port of Spain that had copper lines that were attached to air-conditioning units on the rooftops of their buildings.

"Significant also, in the scourge of illegality associated with this industry, is the proliferation of illegal scrapyards, money laundering and concealment of illegal firearms."

Armour hinted that prosecutions might arise from some of those matters.

He said, "Significant amounts of copper have been recovered from containers, which at August 12, had already been cleared for export and that process is ongoing as we gather here today."

Armour reminded MPs that because of the illegal actions of some people, Government took a decision in August to shut down the domestic scrap-iron industry until February 28, 2023.

Through a legal notice in September, he continued, limited exports of scrap metal were allowed.

Armour also said under the bill, copper is not regarded as scrap metal and its export from TT is forbidden.

Recalling that efforts to regularise the scrap-metal industry date back to 2013, Armour described the bill as "an updated robust culmination of more than ten years of study of the regulation of this important industry."


"AG: Scrap metal is big business"

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