Thieves? insatiable demand for copper creates chaos


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Wired thieves? insatiable demand for copper creates chaos.

In the middle of the night, a Muswellbrook farmer smelled smoke. A grass fire was spreading quickly across his bottom paddock.

Criminals looking for copper to sell as scrap metal had used a chainsaw to bring down a power pole and left live electricity wires trailing through the grass in their wake. As the farmer rushed out to fight the flames, he had no idea of the danger he was rushing towards. The fire engulfed 50 hectares of farmland before it was extinguished.

Since that bushfire in the Upper Hunter of NSW in September 2021, copper thieves have caused chaos of all varieties. They have stripped copper from electricity substations and plunged thousands of homes into darkness, ripped it out of the rail network and caused train delays, and used shovels to dig cables out of the ground.

In June, thieves near Merriwa cut the copper earth tails off more than 50 Ausgrid power poles along the Golden Highway in the Upper Hunter. The Sydney Trains network has reported 57 copper thefts this year alone ? an average of more than one a week. Thieves have also targeted the National Broadband Network on the Central Coast, prompting warnings to recyclers to look out for cabling with ?nbn? printed on the outer sheath.

In early 2020, thieves lifted 2.5 kilometres of freshly laid copper traffic signal cables worth an estimated $200,000 from a new housing estate at Oran Park in Sydney?s south-west. The case remains open.

The thieves are driven by the opportunity to cash in on the high prices copper and other recyclable metals are collecting on the international market. Copper is one of the best conductors of electricity and used widely in electrical circuits. It fetches about $12.80 a kilogram on the international market, though the price was as high as $16 in early 2022.

More: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw...for-copper-creates-chaos-20230830-p5e0qq.html