Johannesburg - Copper theft increased in the month of July from R17.9m to R19.7m, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) copper theft barometer indicated on Wednesday.
This was the first monthly increase in the series since the recent spike of R34.7m in March, Sacci said.
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.
The copper theft volume indicator recorded a level of 315 tonnes in July from 288 tonnes in June, a 9% increase on a monthly basis.
"The increases in the barometer and volume indicator are unfortunate and indicate heightened criminal activity and opportunism which has occurred despite the decrease in the international spot price of copper during the first half of the year," said Sacci CEO Neren Rau.
He said the international spot price of copper decreased to an estimated average of R63 724 per tonne in August from the R64 481 average in July.
"The continuation of the European fiscal and financial crisis has had a deflationary effect on industrial commodities like copper."
Exports of copper waste for May rose by 20.2% on a monthly basis to R369.7m from R307.7m in April.
Rau said stakeholders in the copper industry indicated that the implementation of the Second-hand Goods Act had an immediate effect on deterring organised crime syndicates from copper theft.
The act provides the police with an enabling regulatory framework through which second-hand goods dealers and pawnshop owners can be permanently put out of business if found to be involved in the selling of stolen goods.
"The implication is that the number of copper theft incidents has fallen according to anecdotal evidence, but the quantity of stolen copper per incident has increased.
"The outlook for stemming copper theft for the rest of 2012 remains positive despite the temporary setback of an increase in theft in July," Rau said.
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