The South African government has imposed a six-month ban on the export of copper, copper-alloy scrap and most ferrous scrap to combat the rampant theft of metals used in public infrastructure.
The economic damage of ongoing theft and vandalism has been estimated at R47-billion and has amplified both loadshedding and the disruption of freight and passenger rail services, according to news reports.
As per the Trade, Industry and Competition Ministry the temporary prohibition of exports is effective from the publication of a Government Gazette on November 30. Transitional arrangements have been included to allow for exports approved ahead of the ban.
In three phases
During the first phase, the export of copper and copper-alloy scrap will be entirely prohibited. Ferrous scrap exports have also been banned, but with several exceptions, including for aluminium and for stainless steel, as well as ferrous waste and scrap produced in the ordinary course of manufacturing processes.
The Ministry has said that a permit system will also be imposed on semi-finished copper exports during Phase 1 and be continued into the second and third phases.
Exports of other metals will be subject to a permit system administered by the International Trade and Administration Commission (Itac).
During Phase 2, a licensing system will be put in place for all copper trading in South Africa and sellers of copper waste and scrap metal will need to register under the Second-Hand Goods Act (SHGA), once amended to cater for the policy change.
To register, applicants will need to show a tax-clearance certificate and dealers will be required to submit detailed purchase and sales information to a centralised database.
Registered buyers of copper scrap will also only be allowed to purchase from registered sellers.
However, it is envisaged that waste pickers will be exempt from the requirement to register under the SHGA, which will allow such individuals to sell all non-copper metals. In addition, registered dealers will be able to purchase non-copper metals from incidental unregistered sellers.
During Phase 3, the government will consider amendments to existing legislation, or the passing of new legislation, to create a dedicated metal trading licensing regime.