South African copper thieves are screwing up the future of electric vehicles

Thieves in South Africa target copper, disrupting supply for electric vehicles

South Africa holds around 80% of the world’s platinum reserves. Thievery in the country has hit the industry hard, but mainly they are focused on stealing copper. The real target is copper, which can be stolen from cables and electrical wirings in mines. It can be easily sold on the black market.

South African copper thieves are screwing up the future of electric vehicles
Image credits- Green Car Reports

Increasingly well-organized crime syndicates have been targeting platinum for years, but the change has been coming recently. Copper theft in platinum mines is increasing the high demand for supply materials. Applications in the electric car industry have been having a shortage.

Platinum can withstand high temperatures, thus ideal material that can be used to manufacture fuel cells. Alternative battery-powered electric cars are a crucial aspect of having reduced carbon emissions in the world. Electrification of larger vehicles, like long-haul trucking, is an important application of fuel cells. As Battery-powered trucks have a limited range, they need recharging regularly. The fuel cells are much better for these long-haul trucks, as they have space for storing extra hydrogen. The growing demand for hydrogen fuel cell cars is high in China. Where the government announced recently have a target of 50,000 hydrogen fuel cars on road.

Illegal miners

Copper theft has been widespread in South Africa for years, with thieves targeting industries including mining, transportation, and telecommunications. Copper prices have soared over the past decade, with the commodity almost tripling in value since 2015. High prices, combined with the sheer ubiquity of the metal, used for wiring in virtually every electronic device imaginable, have made it an attractive target for metal looters in South Africa. Illegal miners in the country are everywhere, but are often grouped together and known as “Zama zamas,” which in Zulu translates to “keep on trying,” or “to gamble.”

Zama zamas are a broad group, many of whom are undocumented immigrants from neighboring countries who used to work in mining but have since been laid off. And while Zama zamas take the brunt of the blame for most instances of copper theft in South Africa, they are far from the only group known to be stealing the metal. “Copper theft is performed by many very desperate people, some of whom like to blame it all on Zama zamas as there is significant xenophobia in that gesture—but it is a widespread phenomenon across the country,” Rosalind Morris, a professor of anthropology at Columbia University who directed a 2021 documentary on the group, told Fortune.

Credits- Yahoo Finance