Ambitious plan launched to fight copper theft

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) has laid out an ambitious plan to minimise the “enormous” economic and other costs of metals theft in the country.

The department said copper theft constitutes a serious threat to SA’s infrastructure, undermining the country’s low-cost rail advantage and the performance of its electrical grids.

The DTIC has now proposed to deal with the scourge in three phases. The first phase entails a six-month prohibition on exports of all ferrous and non-ferrous waste and scrap metal.

The second phase will then see the amendment of the regulations under the Second-Hand Goods Act to impose more rigorous regulations, and to strengthen reporting requirements for metal dealers and recyclers. The last phase entails the prohibition on the use of cash in scrap metal transactions, among other measures.

“These interventions will lead to a formalisation of the metal trading industry whereby only legally compliant and transactionally transparent businesses will be able to legally trade in scrap and semi-finished metal products. This will, in turn, enable closer monitoring of the physical movement of these products, and more targeted enforcement activities, thereby significantly decreasing the risks of dealing in stolen goods,” minister Ebrahim Patel said.

“Work on the amendments to existing regulations will commence within the first phase, and it is anticipated that these amendments will be gazetted by the beginning of phase 2 and implemented in that phase.

“The legislative action called for in phase 3 may take up to 24 months to finalise, starting from the launch of phase 1.”

According to the research from Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies and Genesis, copper theft from the country’s rail network and electricity grids cost the country over R45-billion in 2020/2021. This is based on increased costs from metal replacement, infrastructure repair, lost service revenue, lost wages, increased commuter costs and forgone revenue suffered by mines.

More worrying is that this estimated cost excludes the costs from copper theft outside the rail and electricity networks.

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Kabelo Khumalo

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