The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (Sacci’s) copper theft barometer increased to a level of R12.4 million in December from R12.2 million in November‚ the chamber said on Friday.

The barometer measures and monitors copper cable theft in the country on a monthly basis.

This is the first monthly increase in the barometer since July last year.

The past year showed a favourable downward trend for copper theft despite the slight uptick in December.

To put the trend in perspective‚ the cumulative net monthly declines in 2012 is equal to R8.5 million‚ more than half the December barometer level.

If 2012 was anything to go by‚ then the trend for 2013 should be positive from a theft reduction perspective‚ Sacci noted.

The international spot price of copper increased to a monthly average of $8‚053 per ton last month from $7‚971 in December last year and $7‚700 in November.

The increase last month further established the upward price trend which started in August‚ Sacci said.

The volatility of the copper price speaks to the general uncertainty over the course of the global economy over the next six months‚ the business lobby group said.

“Improved global investor confidence following further stabilisation of government debt in developed economies should force the price of copper upward over the short to medium term‚” Sacci CEO Neren Rau said.

Copper waste exports in October increased to $39.1 million from $35.9 million in September.

Rau noted the export statistics in general had a high volatility and that levels changed quite rapidly relative to other economic data series‚ although the long-term relationship between the international price of copper and the South African copper export volumes remained.

Vigilance against every level of the copper theft criminal network‚ from the petty criminal to the international exporter must continue‚ Rau said‚ adding that lower copper theft levels meant that associated crimes could be even more actively addressed.

“The unfortunate train accident on Thursday‚ January 31 near Atteridgeville in Pretoria‚ and the accompanying injuries‚ is a further indication that the societal cost of copper theft far exceeds the direct cost of replacing the stolen materials‚” Rau said.