Apple believed to be trying to deal with cobalt miners

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

"We're not sure whether (Apple) want to buy the cobalt for the battery makers that supply them or whether they are planning to stand behind the cobalt supply chain as guarantors", a cobalt industry source said.

In order to ensure quality and long-term delivery of its products Apple, the iPhone maker, is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt for iPhone batteries directly from miners, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing sources. Reports indicate that now about a quarter of all cobalt mined globally is used in smartphones and the demand for cobalt is expected to boom by 2030. One source told Bloomberg that the iPhone maker first started the discussion on the cobalt deals a year ago, but that there are chances that talks may not go anywhere right now.

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Locking in cobalt supplies has become a dominant theme as it is also used in batteries to power electric vehicles whose rapid growth is revolutionizing the motor industry, which is also looking to agree on long-term supply deals. On average, smartphones use about eight grams of cobalt for each battery, but the battery for an electric auto requires over 1,000 times more. On it's part, Apple declined to comment on the issue.

Cobalt is now on the market for over $80,000 per metric ton and has more than doubled in price since 2016. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal with an unnamed supplier in February. Apple has been in the talks with miners for more than a year.

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

The cobalt Apple uses at the moment comes from Congo and it does get a lost of criticism because the labour used in such mines suffer from appalling conditions and use child labour. According to Amnesty International, about 20 percent of the cobalt mined in Congo is extracted by hand by informal miners including children, often in risky conditions. Cobalt is a key component of smartphones batteries, and it's estimated that each smartphone uses around eight grams of refined cobalt.

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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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