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South Africa proposes 6-month ban on scrap metal export to fight theft, vandalism

The economic cost of copper theft alone is estimated to be more than R45 billion annually.
Image: Moneyweb

The South African government has proposed a six month ban on the export of scrap metal to combat widespread theft and vandalism of public infrastructure, a draft document published by the trade ministry on Friday showed.

The theft of copper cable, railway tracks, and other metals in Africa’s most industrialised economy has affected power supplies and freight rail services, often rendering companies such as power utility Eskom and Transnet unable to operate in full capacity. The country has had to contend with years of frequent power cuts.

State logistics firm Transnet’s ability to transport minerals has been hit hard, with some miners resorting to use more expensive trucks instead of trains to transport coal to ports, as demand surge in Europe because of the war in Ukraine.

The economic cost of copper theft alone is estimated to be more than R45 billion ($2.68 billion) annually, according to the document.

“The draft measures propose a six-month export prohibition on scrap and waste metal, including copper cable, together with a permit system for export of specified semi-processed metal products,” the government said.

The issue of copper theft has hampered South Africa’s economic growth, with the metal often smuggled overseas to meet a booming demand amid tight supplies and low inventories.

The government said South Africa’s ports and borders are not well equipped to prevent the export of such metals.

The document, which also outlines other measures the government intends to take, has been released to the public for comments and feedback before final decisions are taken.

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