Johannesburg - Copper theft over the past year was 17.4% less that the previous year, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said on Monday.
The total value of copper stolen in 2011 was R214m, compared to R259m in 2010, according to the Sacci Non-Ferrous Metals (Copper) Theft Barometer.
The barometer - started in December 2010 - is an indicator of the estimated cost of replacing copper cable stolen from major users Transnet, Telkom, and Eskom.
In December last year, R20.9m was recorded stolen, down from R22.1m in November, a 5.6% decrease in theft. December's figure was, however, 27% more than December 2010.
The value of South African copper could increase, judging by a January rise of 5.6% in monthly prices to $7 990 per ton, Sacci said.
Spot copper prices in the second half of 2011 reflected global concerns about the European Union's financial stability.
"The second half of 2011 started with a peak at an average of US9643 per metric ton, followed by a systematic decline to bottom out at an average of $7 380 per ton in October."
Renewed global economic activity was expected to increase the copper price beyond US8000 per ton. This meant it would be more expensive to replace stolen copper, and the possibility that theft of the non-ferrous metal could increase.