Apple in talks to buy cobalt directly from miners

Apple is one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets

It's apparently due to concerns over shortages caused by the recent boom in electric vehicles, and it's hardly surprising considering the iPhone maker is one of the world's largest end users of cobalt as it uses it in all of its device batteries.

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

Electric vehicle companies such as BMW and Volkswagen have been rushing to woo and procure long-term contracts with cobalt producers, according to Bloomberg. An electric auto battery uses one thousand times more refined cobalt than a smartphone does, therefore meaning that it's actually the automobile industry which is taking up cobalt supplies.

What's more, not only Apple is racing to secure its cobalt supplies. Relying on anonymous sources, Bloomberg reports that Apple is in talks to buy long-term supplies of the metal. A metric ton now costs $80,000 which is more than triple of what it used to cost 18 months ago. 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.

The London Metal Exchange (LME), the world's biggest market for industrial metals, has also stepped up efforts to make sure that cobalt mined by child labour doesn't trade on the exchange, following several reports indicating that minors are being exploited to extract the coveted mineral.

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.

Last year, Apple published a list of the companies that supply the cobalt used in its batteries for the first time, and said it would not let cobalt from small-scale mines in Congo into its supply chain until it could verify that the "appropriate protections" were in place.

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