Even as harsher laws are being mooted for cable theft in the wake of high-profile Gautrain outages as a result of this activity, the actual incidence of copper theft could be declining as the price of the metal drops.

This is one of the possible conclusions to be drawn from the ninth monthly South African Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SACCI) Copper Theft Baromater, which measures and monitors copper cable theft in the country on a monthly basis.

The Copper Theft Barometer registered a level of R15,84-million in July 2011.  Although this is up from June’s R14,37-million it is still below the average R16-million and R18-million per month.

According to the organisation, July’s figure suggests a more contained level of theft with the fall in copper price from almost $10 000.00 per ton in July to below $9 000.00 in August.

From December 2010 to April 2011, the international price of copper hovered in the range of $9 500.00 to $10 000. 00 per ton. In July it rose to almost $10 000.00 per ton but subsequently fallen to below $9 000.00 per ton.

The downgrading of the US and concerns about Italian and French debt have left sentiment shaken and have impacted upon the current and future price of copper. The London Metal Exchange confirmed the discounting of copper premiums amid the continued summer slowdown and following the inflow of more than 5 000 tonnes of cathode into the London Metal Exchange warehouses in New Orleans, Rotterdam and Netherlands earlier.  The oversupply of copper and poor demand from the world economy is likely to further reduce the profitability of engaging in the illegal copper trade.