Published: Thu, February 22, 2018
Industry | By Johnnie Johnson

Apple reportedly buying long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners

Apple reportedly buying long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners

Cobalt is a key mineral used in lithium-ion batteries, and Bloomberg says that Apple is looking to secure contracts for several thousand metric tons of cobalt each year for five years or longer.

Asked on a results call with reporters on Wednesday about the company's relationship with Apple, Glencore's Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg said: "We have not signed any deals", adding that Glencore would not sign any long-term deals because the company did not want to lock in cobalt prices.

About a quarter of global cobalt is used in smartphones.

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.

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The negotiations show that Apple is keen to ensure that cobalt supplies for its iPhone and iPad batteries will be sufficient, as the rapid growth in battery demand for electric vehicles threatens to create a shortage of the raw material. 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.

Dealing direct with mines would provide a guaranteed supply for Apple's batteries. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal with an unnamed supplier in February.

Cobalt prices have risen three-fold in the past 18 months to more than $80,000 per metric tonne.

Apple has not responded to an Observer request for comment.

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Apple's business foresight will always give it an advantage in the industry, with the company reportedly being in talks in purchasing Cobalt directly from miners. The human rights group alleged that Apple and Samsung were using cobalt from mines in China and the Congo that rely on child labor.

The DRC is the richest source of cobalt but smaller deposits are also found in countries ranging from Finland to Canada. 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.

Glencore Plc Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg late a year ago named Apple among several companies the miner was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details.

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