The desire to cash in on soaring copper prices is being blamed for the theft of a bronze statue brought to Canada over 50 years ago to commemorate Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, according to Reuters.

Police recovered the head of the 3-meter (10-foot), two-tonne likeness this week at a metal recycling business just west of Toronto.

They are now hunting for the body, which is estimated to be worth somewhere close to C$20,000 ($17,000) in scrap metal, but has a far greater value to the 1 million strong Ukrainian diaspora in Canada.

"It`s been devastating to the great majority of Ukrainian Canadians," said Andrew Gregorovich, vice-president of the Taras H. Shevchenko Museum and Memorial Park Foundation in Toronto.

The statue of Shevchenko, a 19th-century cultural icon sometimes called the "Bard of Ukraine," disappeared last month from a park in suburban Oakville, west of Toronto. Thieves left just the statue`s bronze feet and its stone pedestal.

Police found the partially damaged head after a tip from the recycling shop where two men had sold the metal. One man has been charged in what police say is part of a growing rash of thefts of metal made increasingly valuable by soaring commodity demand.

"We do (see a lot of scrap metal theft)," said Halton Region police public affairs officer Peter Payne.

"But this is the first time in (the area) we`ve ever lost a valuable piece of metal artwork that`s been reduced to scrap. It`s pretty unfortunate."

Bronze is largely made up of copper alloys. Copper has approximately doubled in price over the past two years. On Wednesday the copper price in London was $5,855 a ton.

Earlier in December, a 250 kilogram (550 pound) copper statue of Greek mythological figure Atlas was stolen from in front of a metal fabricating company in north Toronto. The statue was later recovered and a man was charged.

The Shevchenko statue was erected in 1951 as a gift from the Soviet Union to honor 60 years of Ukrainian settlement in Canada. Ukraine became independent after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Gregorovich said there have been at time mixed feelings toward the statue because of its Soviet origins, but the figure of Shevchenko -- whose writings are credited with contributing greatly to Ukraine`s national consciousness -- largely transcends politics.

He said the Shevchenko museum may put the head on display if the rest of the statue is not recovered.