Apple reportedly looking to buy cobalt directly from miners


Bloomberg notes that about a quarter of global cobalt production is used in smartphones and that Apple is keen to shore up its cobalt supplies to have enough for sufficient production of iPhone and iPad batteries.

A Bloomberg report, citing an anonymous source, said the iPhone maker was seeking contracts to buy several thousand metric tonnes of cobalt for five years or longer. But as electric vehicles are expected to rise in demand, Darton Commodities expects by 2030 a sixfold jump in battery-related cobalt production to 324,300 tons. Lots of industries require Cobalt, which is used in making Lithium Ion batteries and its shortage could mean that the competition would have to pay more to get this crucial element. Volkswagen reportedly tried to lock deals with cobalt suppliers by treating them to meetings in a 30,000-seat stadium in their corporate hometown in Wolfsburg, Germany. Auto giants like BMW and Volkswagen are also searching for multiyear deals to ensure they also have enough cobalt to meet targets in electric vehicle production. 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.

But Apple declined to comment.

Mining giant Glencore has named Apple as one of several companies it is talking to about future supplies.

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Two-thirds of supplies come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there has never been a peaceful transition of power and child labour is still used in parts of the mining industry. Cobalt is also mined in China, Russia, Canada and Australia, but we guess that would be more pricey. The country's cobalt imports from the Congo reached US$1.2 billion in the first nine months of a year ago.

Apple is among the largest consumer of cobalt. According to Amnesty International, about 20 percent of the cobalt mined in Congo is extracted by hand by informal miners including children, often in unsafe conditions.

Samsung, Apple's competitor, is resorting to recycling old batteries in any old mobile phones by extracting cobalt from them, according to Bloomberg earlier this month.

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