Copper recycler Aurubis says an audit that’s underway will reveal just how much valuable metal has been stolen from its Hamburg, Germany smelter. It could be hundreds of millions of dollars worth.
The company on Aug. 31 disclosed that thefts of precious metals-bearing materials have likely gone far beyond what was uncovered earlier this year.
In June, the company announced that it had fired several employees and banned some third-party contractors from the facility during an investigation into a suspected theft ring targeting precious metals-bearing intermediate products.
In the latest disclosure, Aurubis said that during a scheduled review of metal inventories, the company identified “considerable discrepancies” between the inventory it should have and what was actually on site. Additionally, it found shortfalls in specific shipments of recyclable input materials it had received.
“This evidence has led Aurubis to conclude that it has been the target of further criminal activity following the cases reported in June 2023,” the notice states.
Aurubis again notified crime investigators and police, who have already arrested suspects in the previously discovered thefts.
Aurubis is conducting a special inventory of metal reserves. The audit, which is likely to be completed at the end of September, will show how much has been stolen. The company said the losses might be in the “low, three-digit-million-euro range,” however, and, as a result, Aurubis will not achieve its forecast financial results for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The company’s stock value tanked after the disclosure. On Aug. 31, a Thursday, the company’s shares were trading for over 76 euros per share. By the following Monday, the shares were trading for under 69 euros each.
A company spokesperson told the Journal that the company found discrepancies between what materials it had on hand and what it had paid suppliers. The fraud could have been perpetrated by people both inside and outside the company. The theft likely included both copper and precious metals, the spokesperson said.
Mining.com published a story discussing how this fraud was discovered and scrap sampling strategies at smelters in general.
Aurubis is building a secondary smelter in Georgia that will recycle e-scrap and other copper and precious-metals-bearing scrap. That facility, which will likely cost over $700 million, will have a capacity of 180,000 tons per year.