Apple buys cobalt to secure long-term battery supplies

22 February, 2018, 01:00 | Author: Shannon Newton
  • Getting down to supply level

Apple is one of the largest end users of cobalt in the world with the metal being a key ingredient in the batteries used in most of Apple devices.

And, according to the sources, that's exactly it.

The news underscores concern that rapid growth in batteries demand may lead to a shortage of the raw materials needed to make them, particularly cobalt, lithium ad copper. However, only Apple and Samsung SDI, that company's battery manufacturing division, "have shown they are able to identify all cobalt smelters and refiners", according to the report.

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And its not like it's just a small amount of the material the iPhone flogger is looking to buy.

Apple is reportedly trying to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt a year for at least five years.

If a deal comes to fruition, it would be the first time Apple has secured its own supplies of cobalt for batteries. In response, for the first time past year, Apple released a list of all the companies from which it secures the supply of raw material. The company has been reported to have purchased Cobalt for batteries, with child labor being employed to do the mining bits. Apple has been in the talks with miners for more than a year.

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So far, no major deals have been announced, although BMW's head of procurement told German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in early February that it was close to securing a 10-year supply deal. A metric ton now costs $80,000 which is more than triple of what it used to cost 18 months ago.

"The problem has nothing to do with the amount of cobalt in the ground but rather the number of mines now producing cobalt", said Trent Mell, CEO of First Cobalt Corp, the world biggest cobalt exploration company. 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.

Such companies are also facing growing public pressure to use cobalt that has not been procured using supply chains that involve human rights violations, something Apple has received scrutiny for in the past.

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The report does not say which miners Apple will be dealing with, and Apple refused to comment on Bloomberg's story.

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