My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: LIME and the Ban on Copper Exports - Scrap Metal Industry's Black Swan

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

LIME and the Ban on Copper Exports - Scrap Metal Industry's Black Swan

Bread and Circus Games
(Panem et circenses)

Juvenal, Satires, X

Jamaica Telecom Providers are in the news again!! This time it is not about being at each others throats, as they were when arguing over Telecom Provider Digicel falsely advertising WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d,e) as a 4G Network prior to the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) designation as my blog article entitled “LIME vs Digicel - The Truth About Charlie”.

Rather, it is Telecom Provider LIME’s turn to be in spotlight, as they have called for a halt to the trade and export of Copper in the Scrap Metal Industry as stated in the article “LIME wants Copper export ban due to thefts”, published Monday July 18 2011, The Jamaica Observer. And this time, they are not alone in this latest call for a ban, as the St. Elizabeth Parish Council has got their back as stated in the article “Scrap the scrap metal trade — St Bess councillors”, published Monday, July 18, 2011 BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau, The Jamaica Observer.

Not to mention Kingston Businessmen in the area surrounding the Copper Cable theft and their loss of business due to the loss of Landline Services as stated in the article “Scrap metal theft crippling Kingston businesses”, published 18-07-2011 17:29:10 by Damion Mitchell, News Editor, The Gleaner

Telecom Provider LIME’s letter to the Minister was apparently due to the their loss of Copper cables that form part of their Analog Trunk Cables that provide Landline services for the residents of Marcus Garvey Drive in St Andrew. To get an idea of how much Copper we are talking about, these cables are a typical six hundred (600) cable set and about five (5) feet can yield as much as a 1.5 lb of high quality Copper.

LIME Vice President of Service Delivery, Howard Mollison comments says it all: “We are now at the point where strong action has to be taken to prevent the continued destruction of our company’s property. We have asked the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce to give serious consideration to a complete ban on the export of Copper because, as it is now, the scrap metal trade is having a potentially ruinous impact on LIME’s operations.”

Their strong worded appeal to the new appointed Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce, Christopher Tufton, has apparently fallen on fertile ground, as he had move to place a ban on the ENTIRE Scrap Metal Industry as stated in the article “Gov’t to slap ban on scrap metal trade”, published Tuesday, July 19, 2011 BY INGRID BROWN Observer senior reporter, The Jamaica Observer.

Interesting stats folks:

  1. Telecom Provider LIME has on record forty one (41) cases of Copper Cable theft
  2. Total cost of Copper Cable theft between April and early July is JA$32 million
  3. Numerically, Telecom Provider LIME greatest losses was in 2007AD, approximately JA$120 million
  4. Total cost of Scrap Metal Theft over the past three (3) years is set at JA$1 billion 
Granted, Scrap Metal thefts were ongoing this year prior to Telecom Provider LIME’s letter to the new kid on the block in the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce. But the recent theft of JRC (Jamaica Railway Corporation) Railway lines and NWC (National Water Commission) pipes was the headline maker, the proverbial straw on Friday July 15th 2011AD that broke the camels back as stated in the article “Police seize more scrap metal”, published Friday July 15,2011 3:31pm, RJR News Online.

It was especially rampant in 2007AD and even in 2010AD as stated in the article “Scrap-metal looters strike again”, published Friday January 8, 2010, The Jamaica Gleaner and other incidents too numerous to count. The Frome Sugar Factory metal theft last year on Wednesday June 1st 2011AD as stated in the article “Frome Sugar Factory affected by scrap metal theft”, published Wednesday June 01, 2011 2:08pm, RJR News Online, was the sign that the cat [Scrap Metal Industry] need to have a bell placed about its neck.

I am particularly hopped up about this topic, as it is a recurrent problem within the Telecoms Industry: Trespass on our property and theft. If it is not Diesel Fuel theft its Copper Metal as I personally discovered in the field while working at Telecom Provider CLARO as a Radio Frequency Technician (2008 to 2009), as, believe it or not, the majority of my work time was spent reporting and documenting Diesel Fuel Theft and Copper Metal Theft.

But while working at Telecom Provider CLARO, I did make suggestions directly to the Mexican Management, but to no avail.

The main one, to incorporate Color Cameras and Audio Devices mounted on the Mobile towers at the Cell Sites and using low resolution Wireless 3G Cameras, met with a lot of criticism, mainly I suspect, because a lot of the very same contractors and Radio Frequency Technicians were somehow behind the thefts themselves. This as it seemed strange that they would not be eager to implement strategies, no matter how expensive, as experimental ideas, to reduce Diesel theft.

I even proposed the now famous Generator Cage to protect Generators, as one such was successfully in place at Bernard Lodge (JCA071), as that site is yet to be breached. However, the company’s top brass failed to grasp the idea of expanding the cage concepts to other cell sites.

While driving with a bunch of Shurpower Engineers in April 2009AD and being filmed via a hidden audio-visual device as well as numerous suggestions I also came up with the idea of installing electric fences at the Cell Sites as a stun deterrent to thefts. This idea was actually implemented at the Gutters Bushy Park (JCA010) Cell Site and is still keeping out scrap metal and Generator thieves till this day.

Tracking the vehicles via GPS was also a solution suggested, but never quite implemented, now also quite possible sans the GPS thanks to the fact that MRSI (Mandatory Registration of Subscriber Information) is soon to be a reality in Jamaica as stated in my blog article entitled “MRSI and MNP - Where the Spies Are”.

So there you have it. Not a cheap solution, but rather low maintenance:

  1. 3G Capable Wireless Cameras watching the cell sites – you figure out how you respond to thefts!
  2. Cages to make accessing important equiptment difficult
  3. Electric fencing around the property to deter thieves
  4. Geo-Location Tracking or Triangulation of all contractors visiting property 
As for the ban, its full effect will not be felt until Friday July 29th 2011AD, as this is now the Scrap Metal Industry’s Black Swan (2010), as changes are coming to prevent Scrap Metal Theft in the first place!

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