LIME hit with $9m bill for cable theft as Government plans to lift ban on industry
The Government's decision to lift the ban on the scrap-metal trade is sending jitters through several companies which have been hard hit by scoundrels operating in the trade.
Among the entities hardest hit is telecoms company LIME, which has reported that the latest incident of theft of some of its transmission cables in Hellshire Heights, St Catherine, has resulted in service restoration costs of $3.5 million.
This moved the cost for such repairs for LIME in that parish alone to more than $9 million in less than two months.
The theft of this type of cable has been linked with the illicit trade in copper scrap in the past.
The latest incident, which affected LIME customers in Hellshire Heights, Johnson Hill and the environs, impacted the voice and BlackBerry service of approximately 300 customers last week.
"The theft of our cables continues to affect us in many ways," said Garry Sinclair, managing director of LIME.
"As we look at our strategies to manage this risk, we are calling on the Government to implement the appropriate regulations to enable a well-run (scrap metal) industry and better protection for businesses such as LIME which continue to face huge financial losses, interruption to services and inconvenience to customers," added Sinclair.
According to Sinclair, since July, LIME has experienced similar incidents of theft in other areas of St Catherine, including Dunbeholden, Bernard Lodge, Sligoville and Leiba Gardens.
Industry Minister Anthony Hylton has announced plans to lift the ban on the scrap-metal trade with the introduction of what he called tough new measures.
Under the new regulations, the export of scrap metal will be done in two categories - industrial and non-industrial scrap.
The regulations place more emphasis on non-industrial scrap or metals purchased for export, an industry that has been blamed for the widespread theft of infrastructure, leaving losses estimated at $1 billion in the last four years.
A key component of the new measure will see the creation of a central processing and loading site for exporters of non-industrial scrap metal.
Hylton said lands have already been identified at Riverton City in St Andrew, and the Factories Corporation of Jamaica will be responsible for constructing the facility at a cost of $40 million.
Exporters will be required to take their scrap metal to the site, where Hylton promises that they will be "rigorously inspected" by the Jamaica Customs Department and the police.
"In the event that the material is proven to be stolen, the exporter will be fined $5 million and he will lose his licence to export. The company will also be required to post a bond of $5 million," Hylton explained.
But the scrap-metal dealers have balked at some of the new regulations, which they say will put pressure on legitimate operators.