Copper theft in March rose to its highest level since early 2010, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said on Tuesday.
Sacci’s Copper Theft Barometer was R34.7 million in March –significantly higher than February’s R22.8 million, Sacci said in a statement.
“This is the highest level for the barometer since early 2010, but the sudden and unexpected increase is hopefully an outlier [it does not reflect the rest of the data] rather than the beginning of a highly problematic upward trend in copper theft,” Sacci said.
“The outlier is most likely due to a financial year-end accounting reconciliation, which included data on copper theft from the previous six months.”
In 2011, the barometer averaged R17.8 million.
Sacci said copper theft had been declining due to successful efforts against criminal syndicates and the introduction of the Second-Hand Goods Act, which contains specific measures against dealing in stolen copper.
“The successful implementation of the act together with improved operational intelligence should reduce copper theft levels, and prove March’s level to be the last spike before the permanent downturn,” Sacci said.
Sacci said global copper theft was driven by the high demand from end users in rapidly growing economies like China.
The spot price for copper dropped to US8,251 per metric ton in March from US8,465 the month before, Sacci said.
“This is the first monthly decrease in the price of copper for the year and may signal a slight downward trend for the second quarter of 2012, barring a strong show of investor confidence in Europe.”
Sacci said the lower price could help to reduce copper theft in South Africa.
“The short-term price trend, together with strengthened local policing efforts against copper theft syndicates makes dealing in stolen copper less profitable and more risky for organised criminals, and should translate to lower copper theft levels in South Africa.”