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KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The export of scrap metal from this country generated EC$1.95 million last year.

And Minister of Foreign Trade Sen. Douglas Slater told Parliament last week that the opportunities in the sector are best left to private businesses.

He, however, said the state-owned Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) stands ready to take up “the slack”.

Last year, this country exported 3,663,640 kilograms — 8 million pounds — of scrap metal Slater said.

He was responding to a question from opposition legislator St. Clair Leacock, parliamentary representative for Central Kingstown.

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Government figures show that copper continues to be the most important scrap metal exported from this country, generating EC$18 per kilogram in 2011, even as iron only brought in EC$0.50 per kilogram, Slater said.

Media reports last year also suggested that the price of scrap copper might have contributed to theft of the metal around the country.

The 13,000 kilograms of waste and scrap copper exported last year returned EC$238,000

According to the figures presented in Parliament, 1.5 million kilograms of waste and scrap iron was exported in 2011, at a value of EC$530,000.

The 99,300 kilograms of stainless steel exported brought in EC$32,000 while 1 million kilograms of alloy steel generated EC$872,000.

Some 347,000 kilograms of tinned iron or steel, worth EC$124,000 was exported while 15,000 kilograms of non-ferrous steel brought in EC$46,000.

The 49,000 kilograms of aluminium sent overseas earned EC$104, 000.

In January this year, 103,00 kilograms of cast iron, stainless steel, and non-ferrous metal were exported, generating EC$110,489, Slater further said.

“All industries are important once you find the proper niche. If you want to put the importance relative to the earnings ability, well you have the figure,” Slater further said.

He said the Unity Labour Party government sees its role in the export of scrap metal as limited to setting policy and has done so.

He further stated what while the CWSA is involved in the export of scrap metal, it is “an area that we should probably best leave to the private sector”.

“It is an area where the private sector should find opportunities and we have no objection to the private sector exploiting these opportunities. If they are not taking up the slack and the CSWA finds it prudent, in the interest of environmental protection, I think that we have to give credit to the CWSA …”

Slater, however, said that economies of scale are an important consideration for the CWSA’s investments in the export of scrap metal.

“Because to invest significantly in a crusher plant and in one run you might clean up the whole country and the sustainability will be questionable,” Slater said.

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