Copper theft declined in September, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said on Tuesday.
The chamber’s copper theft barometer showed a declined to R14.7 million for the month, from R17m in August and R19.7m in July.
“This is the lowest level in the barometer since June 2011,” the chamber said.
It was the fifth monthly decline of the year, but the first month to show a year-on-year contraction.
Despite the monthly decreases, the barometer had grown by an average of 30 percent on an annual basis for the year to September.
The copper theft volume indicator recorded a level of 220 metric tons in September, from 273 tons in August and 315 tons in July.
International spot prices for copper increased in October, for a second, consecutive time.
The estimated average was US8215 (about R71,899) a metric ton in October, from US8090 (about R70,805) in September.
“The price increases reflect a growing optimism in the world economy that Europe has turned the corner with respect to its sovereign debt problems,” Sacci said.
Copper waste exports in July decreased to US38m (about R330.9m) from US39.2m (about R343m) in June.
Export statistics in general had a high volatility and levels changed rapidly relative to other economic data series, Sacci warned.
“The long-term relationship between the international price of copper and the South African copper export volume remains.”
Sacci was concerned by the price increase.
“The continued increase in the international price of copper is worrying since there is anecdotal evidence that the increasingly sophisticated copper theft syndicates respond to price changes in the metal,” Sacci said.
“Although the copper price increases are generally considered to be a positive signal of improved economic activity around the globe, the increase in the price drives up replacement costs.”
The outlook for reduced levels of copper theft for the rest of the year remained positive, said Sacci.
“Historic trends show that copper theft levels decline towards the end of the year.”