Nothing like stripping the copper out of live electrical wires
By Alexander Samoiloff
In 1999 a chronic Russian disease of non-ferrous metals theft has grown up
into the real fever. The problem is that impoverished Russian people steal
non-ferrous metal parts for selling at a low price to the “recycling companies”.
During few previous years local telephone and electric companies waged a
war for survival of their copper cables. Now the Russian crisis has made
export of metals a highly profitable business and we receive regular daily
reports about theft fever in all Russian industries.
A 67 years old pensioner Leonid Galich told me – “When I traveled by bus
to take a look at Dacha (country house) my neighbor said – If you have anything
made of aluminum or copper I can bet they are stolen. A scrap reception station
was opened in the neighboring village. And the neighbor was right. Local
BICHI has robbed out all metal things from my and all neighboring Dachas,
including aluminum spoons, forks, wire, pails, ladders, corrugated roofing
sheets and etc. Robbers are paid 15 – 20 Rbls per kilo at the reception station.”
Khabarovsk electric and telephone companies, Trans-Siberian Railroad and
aviation suffer a real disaster. For example, police reported about 8 casualties
as the result of attempt to cut off operating high voltage electric cables
in 1998. Only in January 1999 we already had 5 deaths. If in 1998 transportation
police has registered 545 cases of metal parts theft from railways for the
whole year, than only in January 1999 they report about 126 such cases.
For example, at the train station Korphovskaya the team of railroad electricians
at night stole 150 meters of the linear copper wire and some other equipment.
While workers have received for the “scraps” 275 Rubles, which they immediately
have spent for buying 12 bottles of vodka, the railroad has suffered 22,5
thousand Rbls loss.
Deputy Chief of Transportation Police Anatoly Zaikin told me that in January
near the Amur-River Bridge they have found a dugout and detained a team of
“scrappers” equipped with all necessary tools for dismantling of equipment.
Those professional “scrap diggers” were travelling along the railroad between
Siberia and Vladivostok.
Khabarovsk City Telephone Company suffers heavy losses because of the regular
theft of copper cables, which leaves the houses and some areas without
communications. For example an ambush in Uzhny Microrayon detained a man
who regularly cut off the telephone cable in the big house. To their surprise
police found that the robber lives in the same house and has a telephone.
Near the town Troytskoye police ambush detained the team of electricians
from Electric Company, who stole at night 1,5 km of high voltage wire line.
Khabarovsk airport reports about invasion of robbers on their facilities.
Thieves steal equipment, parts, cut off lightning cables and etc and sell
to the “Recycling Company”.
During inspection raids on scrap reception stations police often finds Army
ammunition and equipment, like copper artillery shells, missiles. Recently
they found a missile launcher. In an effort to stop robberies Governor of
Khabarovsk Krai Victor Ishayev has issued a decree on licensing and strict
control of the domestic scraps reception stations. But the Chief Procurator
cancels the regulation, as it “contradicts to the federal legislation and
infringes on the civil rights”. But the neighboring China enjoys a Civil
Right to receive super profits from Russian scrap metals by destroying the
remnants of Russian economy.
“DEVIL’S DEN” EL DORADO
By Tykhookeanskaya Zvezda
A real “Gold Rush” has started near the small town Obor down south of Khabarovsk.
Local residents and visitors from Khabarovsk and Prymorye has built in the
woods a tent camp “Devil’s Den” and dig for non-ferrous metals – an old army
At the beginning of 1998 one local resident found few bronze artillery shells
in the woods and started to dig. In a month already few hundred people worked
hard on the site of the old W.W.II Army ammunition warehouses. Later few
diggers have purchased bulldozers. “We live like American gold diggers in
Klondike at the end of 19 Century.
The sites are fairly shared between people and every morning men go to this
hard and dangerous work – said an old timer Valentine Denisenko. – They use
probing rods to detect shells and mines and women pile them. Two men were
killed by mine explosion and one has lost his hand. Few businessmen buy metals
on the place for 8 Rbls per kilo of bronze and 6 Rbls per kilo of aluminum.
Later they resell it in the city at the much higher prices.” There are few
camp vendors who supply diggers with food and other necessary products. Also,
here you can exchange metal to vodka.
Many local residents of that rural area are unemployed. It’s almost impossible
to find work as the lumber mill, were a majority of them worked earlier doesn’t
operate. So, some people live on hunting and fishing, another part sells
illegal vodka and cultivates cannabis for sale. Last fall police detained
few old Babushkas, who are professional drug dealers.