Scrap iron trade resumes February 24, copper ban remains

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A worker direcrs an excavator operator as a container is filled with scrap iron for export on November 22, 2021. – AYANNA KINSALE

The scrap iron trade will resume on February 24 with the partial enactment of the Scrap Metal Act, while trading in copper remains illegal.

Attorney General Reginald Armour said on Friday the ban which was imposed on the industry to curb the theft of copper, will come to an end on February 23, as was initially planned, addressing a media conference at the Office of the Attorney General, Richmond Street, Port of Spain.

Also present was Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon under whose ministry the dealers will be licensed.

At a media conference in November, 2022, Armour said the ban was to be lifted before the end of the year. That did not materialise. On Friday, he said section 39 of the Act will be proclaimed allowing the industry to reopen. The ban on exporting copper remains in effect.

Only manufacturers who have copper as a waste or by-product will be allowed to export copper. Asked about scrap iron dealers palming off ill-gotten copper to manufacturers, Gopee-Scoon said that can’t happen as the manufacturers involved will not be dealing with the dealers and loading will take place at their compounds. She said she could not see a any manufacturer engaging in that, adding it has not happened before and doubt it will in the future. Scrap dealers who had copper prior to the ban will not be allowed to export through manufacturers as the ban remains in effect for them for a year.

Armour said between February 24 and April 14, the industry will be re-opened as the partial enactment of the law will provide enough time for inspectors to be trained and for dealers to acquire licences which they can apply for from Monday. In the interim police, public health officers, and officers assigned to the Environmental Management Authority will fulfil the role of the inspectors. New scrap yards will have to apply after April 14, when the law will be fully enacted.

When contacted, Joanne Archie, head of the police corporate communications department, said police involvement, and the extent of it, are still being reviewed.

Dealers are mandated to inform the Ministry of Trade and Industry seven days before they plan to export products so that an inspector can be present for the loading of containers. They must keep records of names and other identifying information on everyone they purchase material from, and if found to have received information that is false, they will be held liable.

Dealers must only operate between 7 am and 6 pm and display their licence and subject themselves to inspection whenever requested. They are also forbidden from altering the material they collect for up to 15 days after receipt and must be granted permission to do so.

Failure to comply with the law carries a penalty of a fine of $250,000 and imprisonment for one year to a $500,000 fine and three-year imprisonment, Armour said.

When asked why restart the industry when the framework is not completed, Gopee-Scoon said: “The idea is to get dealers back to work” adding that was the Government’s primary concern.

In response to the ban being lifted, TT Scrap Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson said he hopes to have further consultation with the ministry. He said the seven-day notice before exporting may be problematic as the business is time-sensitive.

He queried the training plan for inspectors.

“One of the biggest issues that I have problems with, is who are the people going to train these people (inspectors)? My understanding is that the Ministry of Trade doesn’t have anybody who understands this scrap industry. You have to put somebody who has knowledge and who is able to know how to teach the people.”

He said despite this, he is grateful that the industry can resume.

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