Apple buys cobalt to secure long-term battery supplies


This means that should the day come when demand for electric cars peak, Apple will not find themselves suddenly short on materials to build devices like the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook laptops, and so on. The challenge is that with the growth of electric and hybrid vehicles gobbling ever larger amounts of the metal, Cupertino fears a shortage that could hurt its sales figures.

Apple is rumoured to be buying long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners for the first time, according to Bloomberg, in a bid to secure long-term supplies - possibly for an electric auto project.

A new report from Bloomberg details that Apple is looking to secure a deal that is set to last for at least five years.

Bloomberg says that talks first began more than a year ago, and Apple is seeking a long-term deal - though nothing is yet certain. Vehicle makers like BMW and Volkswagen are also looking to ink multi-year deals that would secure a constant flow of the rare metal. Battery manufacturers are next to acquire the cobalt, using it to produce the lithium-ion batteries found in smartphones like the iPhone.

Cobalt prices have risen three-fold in the past 18 months to more than $80,000 per metric tonne. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal with an unnamed supplier in February.

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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.

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.

Apple is among the largest consumer of cobalt. In the past, the company is reported to have unwittingly bought batteries containing cobalt mined using child labor.

In a report in early 2016, Amnesty International alleged that Apple and Samsung Electronics' Chinese suppliers were buying cobalt from mines that rely on child labour.

Apple has increased its engagement with cobalt miners in recent years due to scrutiny from global human rights organizations.