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Police in Grand Falls-Windsor are investigating a theft from the old Abitibi mill. It seems someone helped themselves to some copper.

A lot of copper. Two tonnes of it, to be exact.

Depending on whether you’re talking short tonnes or metric, that’s between 4,000 and 4,500 pounds of copper.

Not exactly the kind of thing you can stick inside your hoodie and walk out the door with.

And with current market prices for copper, police estimate the value to be around $10,000, so somebody, somewhere, decided that coming up with a plan to grab thousands of pounds of copper from an abandoned mill was worth the effort.

Clearly, it was a well-thought out, methodical and sustained operation that must have taken hours, maybe days to accomplish.

And right now, we don’t know exactly when it happened, only that it was some time between the beginning of the year and July 27.

The thing is, if they timed things right and went in under cover of darkness, the thieves probably ran little risk of being caught.

Back in April the provincial government — which assumed custody of the facility back in 2010 — cut security at the site.

Before that, Abitibi had been maintaining security and environmental monitoring at the site since the pulp and paper mill ceased operation in December 2008.

When the decision to cut security was made, The Advertiser spoke to former mill security worker Kevin Whiffen and he warned that theft of copper from the property has been an issue in the past.

“There's a lot to be said for the deterrent factor of just having a body there,” Whiffen said at the time. “People are less likely to trespass if they see someone there.”

In June, The Advertiser ran a story on Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaking to the Royal Canadian Legion in Grand Falls-Windsor, during which she touched briefly on the subject of security — or lack thereof — at the abandoned mill. She said an announcement would be made within the next two weeks on arrangements for the property in relation to security.

“All I’m saying is that we’re trying to keep the community safe in relation to security and so on, and we’re trying to look at all of that now,” she said at the time.

But there’s been no such announcement and now the mill is two tonnes lighter and still as empty.

With news of the theft, it’s probable the provincial government will have to come up with a plan for security at the site.

But the thing is, even given the amount stolen and its value, the theft raises bigger questions.

What is the provincial government going to do with this site?

If the plan is to keep it as an abandoned industrial complex, clearly security has to go back in place.

But in the longer term, surely it’s time to look for a new use for the site or a buyer, or a wrecking ball.

Because right now it doesn’t seem as if the site is any use to anyone — except looters, that is.

Geographic location: Grand Falls-Windsor, Abitibi

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  • Daniel Corbett
    August 01, 2013 - 10:48

    Hmmm, interesting! A large quantity of copper gone missing! Given my extensive experience in such matters, I would respectfully suggest that when valuable materials mysteriously disappear in bulk form anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador authorities interested in a quick recovery, of the same, should contact the Department of Transportation and Works, as it is called today. It keeps changing its moniker from time to time for some unexplained reason. The statement of Daniel Corbett made August 1, in the year of our Lord 2013.