The value of scrap metals and stolen copper wires

November 2006

The soaring price of copper and other metals has had a dramatic effect on Nodak in two ways. One of the two is somewhat costly, but mostly annoying. The second is very costly.

With higher costs for metals, the value of scrap metal has increased proportionately. Scrap copper today brings roughly twice what it did only two years ago. Because of this, people are more diligent in salvaging and selling copper and other forms of junk metal. Some are way beyond being diligent in that they are stealing copper wires from uninhabited farmyards. In some cases, the power has still been energized at a vacant farmyard when the wires have been cut down and removed. Needless to say, the thieves are taking some risk by cutting wires that have power flowing through them. Some of the wires being cut down from vacant farms belong to Nodak, while some are wires owned by the property owner. In either case, the cost to replace the stolen property is many times the relatively small value of the scrap copper. This, of course, compounds the frustration for both us and the property owner.

In one case, when a thief was caught by the property owner, he told the owner he was from Nodak and he needed to replace some bad wires. He, in fact, had already cut down some of the wires which were the owner’s property. He said he would return later with the new wires, which of course never happened. In this case, the pickup which the thief was driving was green and looked somewhat like the green vehicles driven by Nodak employees.

The second and more costly impact to Nodak with soaring copper prices is the price we pay for our conductor and transformers. By year-end, we will have installed roughly 1.7 million feet of underground conductor. The price of this conductor is $.70 per foot more than two years ago. As you can see, the added extra cost for conductor alone is over $1 million for the year 2006.

There is nothing you as the public can do about our increased cost of construction due to higher metal costs. There may, however, be things you can do to help with the theft of wires from vacant yards. Keep an eye open for things that look unusual. You may want to especially make note if and when you encounter someone at a vacant yard who seems not to belong there. We don’t want you to put yourself in an unsafe situation, but perhaps you can write down their license plate number if possible. You should then give this information to the local sheriff’s department and let them conduct the investigation.