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Feature: Crime report

While the scrap industry has traditionally been about recycling redundant metals, the high value of certain types means that this perception is being turned on
its head.

With non-ferrous alloys, ingots and copper experiencing huge price increases, it seems that thefts of manufactured metal-based products are becoming increasingly more regular.

Before Christmas, a spate of incidents occurred with thieves breaking into yards and stealing various types of ferrous metals in the Midlands area. But while these people targeted redundant scrap, the focus seems to have moved on to metal in any form that may carry a sell-on value.

The recent theft of six aircraft engine fan blades from Rolls-Royce’s Barnoldswick plant in Lancashire suggest that any valuable resource is a potential target. The blades range from 60cm to 1m in length. While all
material is 90% titanium by weight, they are highly specialised, meaning that in their manufactured form, they would be useless to any other industry.

A Rolls-Royce spokesman said: “The aerospace fan blades are a very bespoke product. They suck air down the aircraft engine and are used only by Rolls-Royce. They are very expensive to manufacture and are made to a high quality, with their value lying in their strength to weight ratio.”

While titanium is hardly rare, with at least a 10,000 year supply of its ore remaining, its extraction is a relatively slow and costly process, making it expensive. This has meant that, for many years, its use has been limited to the military and aerospace industry.

Gaining maximum value for the stolen material would be difficult and is probably not a priority, as another theft at Corus’ Brinsworth steel processing plant in Rotherham over the Christmas shut-down suggests.

Corus Group spokesman John Patrick says: “There were three steel coils and two nickel alloy coils stolen from inside
the building. We believe it was an inside job. To the untrained eye, the nickel looks exactly
like steel, but it’s massively more valuable. The wire roll is worth £8,000 a tonne to our customers, so we believe it was an organised effort, well planned and between more than one person.”

What adds further weight to the assumption that this was not just an opportunist raid is the manner in which it was
carried out.

Patrick added: “It was well organised. They knew where to cut a hole in the fence, just outside our CCTV camera’s range, and they knew that no-one would be on-site. Every other time of the year we have security, but they knew that at this time there would be nobody present. We were specifically targeted and the thieves must have had an outlet. You don’t go to that level of trouble without knowing where to get rid of it.”

But the coils would be of limited use and would need to be melted down and re-formed, with Patrick believing that the thieves took the resource knowing that they would take a huge loss on its true value.

But it seems that the greatest prize for a thief at present is copper, a fact that Sims Group found to its cost with the theft of nearly nine tonnes of dry bright wire from its depot in Newport.

Sims regional commercial manager Keith Egerton said: “It must have been well planned because we
operate on a dock and they had to get past two lots

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