Copper theft and how to combat it

With the increasing industrialization of countries like China and India, the demand for metals is outstripping supply, meaning shortages and sky-high prices. Copper is one of the most recyclable metals, since there is no difference between recycled copper and freshly mined copper, and it can be repeatedly recycled without any loss of quality.This is good news for the environment. The bad news, however, is that this makes it a favourite metal targeted by criminal gangs who can make large sums of money by stealing it and selling it for scrap.

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Copper theft

Copper is widely used. It is found particularly in cabling and piping, much of which is unprotected so that thieves can and do take advantage. As a result, there have been many cases where Internet cabling, railway networks, and electric vehicle charging stations, for example, have been targeted and stripped of their copper.

It is not uncommon for copper pipes to be the target of thieves too, mostly in industrial settings but occasionally domestic as well. Copper pipe is extensively used for plumbing, and various types and uses of it can be seen here:

Copper theft on Britain’s infrastructure is a growing problem and has led to the Government taking action.

Combating the thieves

The Government has introduced several measures to try to combat the crime. For example, in an attempt to make transactions traceable, no cash transactions are allowed and anyone selling scrap metal must have proof of ID and give full bank details. These measures are designed to try not to impact the legitimate scrap metal business too much, as this performs a valuable function in the metals supply chain.

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On a practical level, CCTV installations in areas with large amounts of vulnerable metals seem to be one step in preventing theft, along with such things as security lighting, warning signs, etc. With the short to medium-term price of copper likely to stay high, copper theft is almost certainly going to remain a problem that will need careful management.

Author: Brielle Walker

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