Are you getting tired of people stealing your lovely earthing arrangements

Are you getting tired of people stealing your lovely earthing arrangements

Fed up Losing your earthing Arrangements

Good news – having just finished a project to pin lovely shiny copper conductors to their supporting structures protecting their Earthing Arrangements. We’ve ended up with quite a few surpluses of the Fischer FNAII stainless pins (we call them Titan pins – part no. 044112) leftover – 3,400 to be exact!

These bad boys are simple to fit concrete structures using a 6mm dia masonry drill at discrete spacings (typically 500mm) to make things incredibly hard for a thief to remove the valuable conductor without spending considerable time trying. This Anti-theft earthing arrangement is not a silver bullet, but even if they do persist all that they can practically do is to cut away a 500mm section at a time not 10’s or 100’s of meters. Therefore slowing the whole process down massively.

Thus, making things incredibly frustrating for the thief and making them more vulnerable to getting caught as well as reducing how much of the conductor goes missing.

Anti-theft for Earthing Arrangements Protect your Earthing Design Assets

They normally sell for around £300 plus VAT per 100 boxed. But you can get your hands on them for £200 per 100 boxed, a saving of 33%. Each box is sufficient for approximately 50m of the conductor.

Once they’re gone… they’re gone!

Anti-theft for earthing arrangements  Protect your Earthing Design Assets
Anti-theft for earthing arrangements – Protect your Earthing Design Assets

The Solutions To A Global Epidemic of Metal Theft

A recent small decline in the price of copper led to hopes that there might also be a downward trend in copper theft in South Africa. However a major Chilean earthquake has resulted in copper prices starting to rise again.

Metal theft remains an attractive prospect for many unemployed young men in South Africa. And is a lucrative activity for international criminal gangs.

Serious Consequences For Industry and Commerce

Metallic theft has been identified as a major threat to the South African economy. Recent examples include the cable theft in October 2013 at O R Tambo Airport which grounded all flights. Power station metal theft is a continuing source of electricity supply problems. Such as the theft attempt which caused an explosion at Tshwane in March 2014, blacking out much of the city of Soshanguve.

West Midlands Police Tracking Metal Theft
IMAGE:  West Midlands Police Tackling Metal Theft   (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Deterrence, Detection, and Technology

No single solution will eliminate the problem. However, metallic theft is being made harder, and detection rates improved. At the same time, technologies are being developed which will make electrical systems more robust.

Legislation and Policing

The Second-Hand Goods Act came into full operation on April 30th 2012. The Act equates possession of stolen goods with theft, and regulates the scrap metal trade. It also criminalises the possession of non-ferrous metal cable from which the insulating cover has been burnt off. This is to counter the thieves’ usual practice of burning cables in order to disguise their origin.

The Copper heads, the specialist police unit formed in 2007 to fight non-ferrous metal theft in the Western Cape, is currently making up to 300 arrests every year. There have been suggestions that a similar unit might be established in Johannesburg.

Combatting Power Station Metal Theft

Eskom, the South African electricity generating company, has an in-house copper theft prevention unit and has established a task force with other interested parties. Eskom is actively engaged in seeking alternatives to copper. But has recognised that at present, more work needs to be done on the technical specifications necessary for its earthing systems, before copper replacements can be used in them.

Earthing Alternatives and Copper Replacements

One way of reducing the damage caused by the theft of earthing materials is to use a copper replacement. Aluminium, which has 60 per cent of the conductivity of copper, is sometimes used but it presents problems of corrosion. It is also itself sufficiently attractive to thieves to make its use unsafe. Copper clad steel is an option which has been used in America for many years. It is now gaining favour in SA. The two metals cannot be easily separated for resale, and the copper actually reduces the scrap value of the steel. At present, this would be an expensive solution. As there is no manufacturing facility for copper covered steel in South Africa, but in the long run technologies such as this one are bound to become more cost-effective.

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