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Huge rise in scrap metal prices leads to crime wave

The boom in commodities is not all good news for farming communities as the rate of metal theft reached new extremes in recent weeks.

With more than €5,000/t on offer from merchants for scrap copper, or ¤200/t for scrap steel, thieves are stripping vehicles of their batteries, raiding churches and stealing metal sculptures and telephone wires.

The situation has prompted the IFA to call for the immediate introduction of a metal compliance scheme similar to those operated by Repak.

Rural affairs chairman Pat Farrell said that farm households have been left without a phone service after thieves removed copper phone cabling.

"Even manhole covers are being stolen throughout the country in addition to batteries, farm machinery and scrap metal being taken out of farmyards," he said. "In Cork, thieves are stealing road signs while in the midlands thefts of copper pipes, cylinders and radiators from homes and sports club facilities are being reported."

St Kevin's Church, in Shanakiel, Co Cork, was stripped of all its lead and copper last month. Meanwhile, seven level-crossing gates were stolen in the last week in Co Roscommon.

Mr Farrell believes that the current review of the national waste strategy by the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, provides a real opportunity to track scrap thieves.

Copper prices are up 23pc this year. Aluminium has gone up 15pc over the past 12 months, with prices at €770-900/t. Prices for steel are at €150-200/t, with Hegarty Metals in Limerick paying the best prices. Stainless steel is making €900-1,100/t, with the highest price paid by Midland Scrap Metal Co Ltd in Tallaght.

Indo Farming