Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Come A Copper

Bring me the head of Taras Shevchenko:

A Burlington recycling plant says it paid less than $1,000 for the head of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.

Halton Regional Police found the bronze at Thomson Metals and Disposal yesterday. The statue, valued at more than $350,000, was reported missing over the weekend from the Shevchenko Memorial Park in Oakville.

The monument, which had been crudely cut off at the ankles, was stolen for its copper content.


Statue thefts in an age of high copper prices are becoming increasingly common, said Arnold Knapp, consultant with Canadian Copper and Brass Development Association, yesterday. He said the bronze used in statues normally contains about 85% copper alloy. Once that bronze is melted down for resale, he said, it can never be turned into pure copper but can still be a valuable product to use in other castings.

"We have a large number of copper thefts in the region," said Halton Detective Greg Sullivan yesterday. "On Christmas Eve there was a break-in at a factory in Oakville where a bunch of different metals were stolen."

The statue of Taras Shevchenko was a gift from the Soviet Union to mark the 60th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada. Shevchenko is considered by some to be the Ukrainian equivalent to Shakespeare. As a 19th century poet, he produced more than one thousand literary works.

When the statue was erected in 1951, tens of thousands attended its unveiling. At the time, the monument was the centrepiece of a Ukrainian children's summer camp. While the camp closed in 1998, many still visit the park to see the historical figure.

Copper theft is the in thing in theft these days, with copper prices having doubled over the past few years.

Fortunately (or not), it has its own built-in deterrent: electrocution. Copper thieves have been frying themselves on power poles and substations trying to strip copper from power cable with an almost alarming regularity.

Until demand for copper falls off enough as consumers switch to cheaper substitutes where possible, expect no man's eavestroughs or power lines to be safe.

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