2 August 2013 – While theft of copper conductor is a problem that affects the electricity supply industry in South Africa, many other countries in Africa which use copper reportedly do not experience this problem. However, Libya in north Africa is another country that is experiencing a copper theft problem.

The Libya Herald reports that thieves are threatening the country’s already overstretched electricity resources by stealing power supply cables.

“These people steal the cables and then sell on the copper from them,” press officer for the ministry of electricity, Wisam Bin Shaban, told the Libya Herald.

Sirte is the latest area to fall victim to this crime spree. Local residents have suffered severe power shortages following a spate of thefts from power stations and pylons around the town. “This is not the first time this has happened,” Bin Shaban says. As well as cable thefts, the General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL) faces other problems, including the loss of maintenance vehicles and equipment.

Even the capital has been affected, with some GECOL vehicles not able to reach certain areas around Tripoli due to security concerns. “Every time technicians go to do maintenance work in these areas, they either get their cars or equipment stolen,” Bin Shaban says.

A spokesperson for GECOL says that the thieves “sell the stolen copper to neighbouring countries.” The theft of cables, as well as maintenance vehicles, has so far cost GECOL millions.

The GECOL spokesman blamed the country’s power cuts not only the theft of cables but also the recent strikes at the country’s oil fields and export terminals. The protests at Zuetina Oil Company had caused a shortage of 500 MW.