Copper is the commodity of the moment, evidently. Demand from fast-growing economies such as China – combined with ageing copper mines struggling to keep up – have caused the metal to attract such a premium from scrap merchants and buyers that unscrupulous individuals are going to extraordinary lengths to get hold of it.
In Leeds a man was admitted to hospital recently with severe burns to his face, hands and chest after causing an explosion while trying to cut through a live copper cable with a saw.
Power company Eon, meanwhile, had 37 copper thefts from one of its sites in Coventry in the space of a week. In a single day in August the BBC website published three stories about copper theft from Yorkshire, Stirling and Port Talbot.
But one victim of the copper thefts has decided to fight back. BT, which saw thefts of its copper cables rise by 9 per cent in 2009, costing millions of pounds, has taken to daubing its wires with invisible paint called SmartWater. If the cables are tampered with the paint rubs off on the felons and stays on them for up to 60 days, helping police prove their guilt if they are caught.
Which, hopefully, will lead to coppers nicking the copper nickers.