Apple looking to buy cobalt direct from miners

22 February, 2018, 00:47 | Author: Patty Aguilar
  • Apple cobalt stock electric cars Apple iPhones cobalt mining battery components Samsung battery producers Volkswagen CEO Tim Cook BMW mining industry

Apple is seeking contracts to secure several thousand metric tonnes of cobalt a year for five years or longer, according to one of the people, declining to be named as the discussions are confidential.

Bloomberg's source reported that Apple may not actually go ahead with a deal, as the parties involved are still only in the discussion phase.

Apple may be looking to ensure it has adequate supplies of an essential ingredient of its iPhone batteries. Companies such as BMW, Volkswagen and Samsung are also looking to lock up multi-year contracts for supplies of the metal to produce electric vehicles. While smartphones use around eight grammes of refined cobalt, the battery for an electric vehicle requires more than 1,000 times more. Apple says it is working to end child labour in cobalt mines, and it has partnered with a number of NGOs to focus on the DRC particularly. As it stands it has been estimated that a quarter of all cobalt production is used for smartphones, but that could change in the future.

Also, it is unclear if the African country's cobalt supply will last long enough to match California's and other US states' ambitions to replace diesel-powered vehicles with electric ones.

But Apple declined to comment. Over the past eighteen months, the price of cobalt has tripled to more than $80,000 a metric ton. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal with an unnamed supplier in February.


DRC's near-monopoly position in cobalt mining has been fraught with ethical and economic issues, most notably child labor in the mines.

About 62 per cent of the world's cobalt supply is now controlled by China, and more than 90 per cent of that comes from Congo, according to metals consultancy CRU.

Cobalt prices went ballistic a year ago, with the metal quoted on the London Metal Exchange ending 2017 at $75,500 per tonne, a 129 percent annual surge sparked by intensifying supply fears and an expected demand spike from battery markets.

Over the years, the Cupertino, California-based company has faced the heat of human rights groups, which allege that Apple has kept its ethics at stake by sourcing supply from the mines involved in child labor.

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