Johannesburg - The value of stolen copper decreased to R9.9m in April from March's R10m, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said on Thursday.
The value was R11.2m in February.
However, the estimated volume of copper stolen went up, because the price dropped.
Sacci's "Copper Theft Volume Indicator" increased to a level of 150 metric tons in April from 142 in March, linked to the 5% monthly decrease in the copper price in April.
"In other words, although the value of copper stolen decreased in April, the estimated volume picked up slightly due to a weakening of the copper price," Sacci explained.
The international spot price of copper stabilised at a monthly average of $7 229 per metric ton to date in May from $7 208 in April.
The May figure was 8.5% lower than a year before.
In 2012 the average copper price was just below $8 000 per ton, but in the year to date the average had dropped to around $7 600.
Copper waste exports increased to $36.8m in February from $35.1m in January.
The slight increase was still below the 2012 year-end peak of $43m in November.
The February figure was 15% less than a year before.
Sacci believe the increased exports in February were most likely a market response to the strong price of copper at the beginning of the year ($8 061 per ton average for January and February).
"The outlook remains positive for the medium- to long-term," said Sacci.
"There is a strong relationship between the incidence level of copper theft and the international copper price. The falling copper price over the past two months would therefore limit the incentive for theft. In addition, the far more enduring impact of law enforcement initiatives continues to play a role."
Copper cable theft frequently brings sections of South Africa's power and communications infrastructure to a halt, as replacement cables have to be ordered and installed.
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