18 November 2021

A unique new African solution to prevent theft of overhead cables

Submitted by Mitch Mitchell
A unique new African solution to prevent theft of overhead cables

TRANSNET has reported the theft of over 1,000 kilometers of overhead cable from Jan to Oct 2021 - and in the two weeks leading up to 10 November another 55 km was stolen.

See https://www.biznews.com/mailbox/2021/11/16/transnet-copper-cable-stolen for the full story. 

Apart from severe disruptions in services, Transnet is now considering doing away with electric traction and just using diesel in future. That would be an enormous tragedy; not only conceding defeat to gangsterism, but to the environment if many large diesel engines push out their exhaust gases. Much of the goods previously transported by rail now goes by road transport, with hundreds of diesel trucks contaminating the air and damaging the roads.

Only 7% of apprehended thieves are convicted because it is impossible to prove origin and ownership of the cable. Syndicates employ thieves and continue stealing cables knowing they can do so without consequences. Although it is impossible to guard the thousands of kilometers of overhead copper cables, much of it in remote areas, another option is available..

A new South African invention can prevent all this. The solution involves the marking of the top two thirds of the overhead electrical rail cable with nickel microdots, sprayed onto the cables from a slow-moving locomotive. These are the same microdots currently being used to identify vehicles, the use of which 18,000 officials have already been trained. The microdots can never be removed and are impervious to being burnt, being granulated and being melted into ingots.

With copper cables permanently marked with these microdots, the cables become too risky for scrap yards to buy or for thieves to steal and sell because effective prosecution and conviction becomes possible. Scrap yards will refuse to buy the cable and the illegal copper resale market will be drastically reduced. Even the 250 containers of copper that leave for China and India through Durban harbor every month will be identifiable and illegal exporters prosecuted.

Let’s get it done.

CableDNA is an electrical cable theft prevention company based in South Africa. www.cabledna.co.za