Hoku assessing damage by copper thieves


POSTED: Tuesday, September 08, 2009

POCATELLO, Idaho » Contractors for Hoku Scientific Inc. plan today to assess the damage that copper thieves did to the Hawaii-based company's unfinished polysilicon plant in Idaho.

Plant Manager Ed Church said someone on Thursday cut a hole in a barbed wire fence big enough to drive a truck through to get to the plant and remove copper grounding wires that service cooling towers.

Church said the thieves removed just portions of wires that extend above ground but that repairs will require digging up buried wires.

“;If we find out who did it, we will go to the full extent of the law,”; Church told the Idaho State Journal. “;We are going to build this plant, and what may seem little to some cost us a lot of money to rework putting the wire back in the ground.”;

Hoku wants to manufacture and sell polysilicon for the solar market at the plant.

Church said the company has not yet fully determined the damage or estimated how much repairs will cost. The general contractor for the plant, JH Kelly, LLC, plans to examine the damage today.

Church said he has notified Hoku's insurance company.

“;It's not something I'd think we'd have in a small town like this,”; Church said.

The company has asked local salvage businesses to be on the lookout for individuals selling copper wire.

When completed, the $390 million factory is expected to employ 200 workers.

Construction at the plant nearly came to a standstill earlier this year because the company still needs to come up with more than $100 million of the $390 million cost of the plant.

Contractors have filed about $16 million in liens against Hoku Scientific. JH Kelly LLC filed the largest lien in July of just under $13 million.

However, officials with both Hoku and the contractors say the moves are a normal part of doing business when there are financial problems, but still want to see the plant completed.

Hoku officials said the general contractor and subcontractors aren't making any efforts to foreclose on their liens and have been flexible.