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Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Hon. Anthony Hylton, has outlined the rationale for resuming the local scrap metal trade, come January 2013.

Speaking at Wednesday’s (December 19) Jamaica House Media Briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Mr. Hylton pointed out that at its “zenith,” the scrap metal trade provided employment for over 10,000 persons, particularly among the lower socio-economic group.

Additionally, he said the sector “proved itself” a viable foreign exchange earner, and at the height of its operations in 2006, grossed US$100 million.

“My position on the trade in scrap metal has been as consistent as it has been clear. The trade is an important contributor to economic activity in Jamaica…we need the scrap metal trade. It provides jobs. It earns foreign exchange and clears the environment of derelict vehicles and scrap metal. We must also recognize that certain mineral deposits are declining and are not renewable. (As such) recycling of non-renewable resources is important for sustainable living,” the Minister argued.

However, Mr. Hylton lamented the significant dislocation, consequent on illicit activities such as theft, which the country suffered, particularly during the height of the industry’s operations in 2006.

“There was evidence of wanton disregard for public infrastructure and personal property and the level of theft and vandalism was at an all time high. So, while the trade was earning a significant amount of foreign exchange and creating employment, losses from theft over the past four years totalled approximately $1 billion. This does not include the dislocation to businesses and the amount of security measures that companies have to institute to prevent theft,” he indicated.

As a result of this and other developments, the sector’s activities were suspended earlier in the year for reviewing and development of a new regime and measures to govern its operations, which have been approved by Cabinet. The trade is now set to resume by the third week in January, 2012 the Minister advised journalists at Wednesday’s briefing.

“Let me make it patently clear, this activity will be guided by very stringent rules and regulations with appropriate penalties for non-compliance. It cannot be an ad hoc approach, where traders and exporters do as they please. That will not happen under my watch,” Mr. Hylton asserted.