The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) has received funding to continue the development of an innovative method to tackle the ever-growing problem of metal theft. IOM3 have developed a unique metal signature which, together with an accessible national register provides a solution to a crime that has cost the UK economy an estimated ¾ billion pounds a year.
British Transport Police and government bodies including the Home Office, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) have joined forces to work with the Institute to face the evolving problem in the UK.
The rate of metal theft has been rising steadily in recent years. Commodity metals, including copper, aluminium and lead, have all seen significant increases in value over the last three years.  This is widely acknowledged as the primary cause for the increase in theft activity.  Church buildings have been badly affected to the extent that the main insurer for the Church of England, has reported more than 2,500 claims from churches last year.
Bernie Rickinson, the Chief Executive of IOM3, confirms that the new mark captured within a National Register can be traced by police within a matter of minutes. He said, ‘As a result of public concern and with the support of government bodies and UK materials businesses new ideas and concepts have been developed to deter metal theft.  Having prioritised a number of potential solutions, we feel we have now reached a stage to broaden the work and this funding will help to accelerate the development.’
This rapid traceability of the metal to the site of a theft has previously been a major problem. With the new marks, there is no ambiguity – thieves can be charged on the spot. Currently, at demonstration stage, the new process is intended to be applied to Heritage sites from the Autumn of this year.
Commissioning of the demonstration unit is expected to be complete in August, and patent protection has been sought to assist in future development of the technology.

This story is reprinted from material from IOM3. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.