Apple Securing Supply of Key Ingredient in Its Batteries, Cobalt

Apple Securing Supply of Key Ingredient in Its Batteries, Cobalt

Apple Inc. may start buying cobalt directly from miners, according to a Bloomberg report, which says that Apple is concerned about there being a shortage of the material amid booming demand for electric vehicles. Cobalt is used in making batteries that are incorporated in a wide-range of Apple devices, with the primary bread and butter of the company being iPhones. Apple is now competing against global carmakers to acquire enough cobalt for their future products.

A source has told Bloomberg Apple is seeking contracts to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt over a five-year period.

If a deal comes to fruition, it would be the first time Apple has secured its own supplies of cobalt for batteries. Once an ignored byproduct of copper mining, the demand for cobalt is driven by the world's reliance on the rechargeable batteries in our smartphones and the shift toward electric vehicles.

The move to get more supplies of cobalt means the technology giant will find itself in competition with electric carmakers and battery producers to lock up cobalt supplies.

Apple ranks among the top companies for having taken "adequate action" to make sure its cobalt supply chain is safe, according to the organization. South Korea's top oil refiner, SK Innovation Co., agreed to a deal this week of $3.9 billion with Australian Mines Ltd. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal.

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Cobalt CBD0 prices on the London Metal Exchange, at around $80,000 a tonne, have climbed from near $20,000 in January 2016.

Ivan Glasenberg, the chief executive at mining firm Glencore, said late past year that Apple was among several companies that the Anglo-Swiss enterprise was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details.

Further complicating matters, Apple and Samsung have both been put under scrutiny for procuring cobalt from mines where child labor was found to have been used. Cobalt has been at the center of several heated debates over the years as the largest supplier of cobalt is the Republic of Congo, where even children work as miners.

Rights group Amnesty International said a year ago about a fifth of Congo's cobalt production is mined by hand by informal miners including children, often in unsafe conditions.

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