Scrap metal dealers push back against government ban

Business groups across the Caribbean dealing in the globally-lucrative scrap metal business are moving to fight export bans by authorities across the region who blame the sector for harboring criminals and for vandalizing key state and private sector installations, saying there is no other area of life where an entire community is punished for the misdeeds of a few.

Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and several other countries have either banned or temporarily restricted containers loaded with scrap iron, aluminum, copper and other ferrous and non-ferrous metals from leaving their shores because of raids for scrap on facilities ranging from tombs in cemeteries to roadside landline cabinets, to railway lines to sugar cane transport pontoons.

Guyanese authorities recently allowed several dozen containers of scrap iron to be exported to Europe and North America as a one-off gesture to dealers, perhaps ahead of the Nov. 28 general elections, but have also emphasized that the latest export ban imposed recently will remain in place and that shipments of non ferrous scrap like aluminum might be in place for a long while .This is because of extensive damage to state and private sector properties.

In Jamaica where complaints from both sides are similar to those in Guyana, the office of the contractor general has launched a formal probe into the disappearance of 97 containers from a pier in Kingston in what authorities say was a violation of a cabinet ban on exports.

Jamaican officials say the trade board had issued no export licenses nor had the industry ministry given the green light.

The spotlight as to which agency allowed the containers to be loaded onto vessels appears to be heading the way of the customs department as cabinet has made it clear that it had given no permission for shipments to resume after banning them earlier this year.

The ban followed raids on cemeteries and the removal of iron rails in the key bauxite industry.

Guyana’s U.S.-owned telephone company has said it is tired replacing expensive equipment raided by thieves and remains under pressure from subscribers who go without internet and other services for days once equipment is damaged.

In Trinidad, dealers there are boiling with rage because illegal petrol was found in a scrap yard of a dealer during raids by the joint services in the midst of the nation’s state of emergency which is due for review in early December.

Environment Minister Roodal Moonilal says that the industry has to be regularized before exports resume but sector spokesman Kumar Ramlal says the entire industry is being punished because authorities found illegal fuel on the premises of a single dealer. It happens in no other area he says, noting that 35,000 people are affected directly and a U.S.$90M industry is under threat.

“We would like to emphasize that we are in support of the government’s drive to curb the illegal activities that is taking place in this country. However, consideration must be taken and dialogue should be given to us, the honest, hard working legitimate scrap iron dealers of Trinidad,” Ramlall said.

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