Copper theft hits all-time low


The incidence of copper theft has hit an all-time low, with the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) May report revealing the crime is at the lowest recorded level since the inception of the barometer in 2010.

Sacci said yesterday its Copper Theft Barometer decreased to R9 million in May – down from R9.9 million in April and R10 million in March. The body says the new low indicates copper theft crime-fighting strategies are gaining momentum. “The Copper Theft Volume Indicator decreased to a level of 132 metric tons in May, from 150 metric tons in April.”

Sacci introduced the Copper Theft Barometer in December 2010, after it emerged that the crime was costing SA’s economy an estimated R5 billion per year. Since then, the barometer has measured and monitored the extent of copper cable theft in SA on a monthly basis. At the time, Sacci said the initiative aimed to raise general awareness around copper theft.

Copper cost

The international spot price of copper dropped to a monthly average to date of $7 094 per metric ton in June, from $7 237 in May. According to Sacci, this is the lowest value for the metal since July 2010, and is $593 below the 12-month-to-date average of $7 687.
“The volatility of the copper price is sizable, given that the latest 12-month peak was in February 2013, at a monthly average of $8 062 per metric ton, 13.6% higher than the June 2013 estimate.”

Copper waste exports increased to $36.8 million in February, from $35.1 million in January. The slight increase is still below the 2012 end-year peak of $43 million in November. The February figure is 15% less than a year before. Sacci says the increased exports in February is most likely a market response to the strong price of copper in the beginning of the year ($8 061 per ton average for January and February).

The chamber says the downward trend looks set to continue into the latter part of the year. “The outlook remains positive for the medium- to long-term. One proxy for this relationship is the relationship between the copper price and exports of scrap copper products. The trend in official exports of copper waste normally lags the price trend by a few months, so the current significant contraction in the price should [have] a downward impact on criminal activity for the next two to three months.”

Sacci urges members of the public to assist in the fight against copper theft, and to be vigilant. “Members of the public should be aware of criminals who are pretending to be contractors to Telkom and should immediately contact the Telkom Crime Hotline at 0800 124 000 to report anything suspicious.
“There is also a visible toll-free number on each Telkom vehicle. If a Telkom contractor is working on a site, there should be a visible sign board on site that would indicate the name of the contractor.”