Apple reportedly looking to buy cobalt directly from miners
22 Февраля 2018, 12:47 | Clyde Nash
Electronics and auto makers are racing to lock in supply agreements for cobalt amid fears of shortage. The challenge is that with the growth of electric and hybrid vehicles gobbling ever larger amounts of the metal, Cupertino fears a shortage that could hurt its sales figures.
Apple is believed to be in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners. As it stands it has been estimated that a quarter of all cobalt production is used for smartphones, but that could change in the future.
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.
Negotiations are said to be in a preliminary stage, which means Apple may end up deciding not to go ahead with a deal, the article says.
Apple is not the only company seeking long-term cobalt supply deals: BMW has been seeking its own 10-year deal for its electric vehicle program. On average, smartphones use about eight grams of cobalt for each battery, but the battery for an electric vehicle requires over 1,000 times more.
Also, it is unclear if the African country's cobalt supply will last long enough to match California's and other USA states' ambitions to replace diesel-powered vehicles with electric ones.
The price of cobalt has more than tripled in the past 18 months to trade at more than US$80,000 a metric tonne.
Ivan Glasenberg, the chief executive at mining firm Glencore, said late past year that Apple was among several companies that the Anglo-Swiss enterprise was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details.
"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.
Apple is among the largest consumer of cobalt.
In recent years, Apple has stepped up its engagement with cobalt suppliers after the origin of the metal in its supply chain came under scrutiny from human rights groups.
According to report by Amnesty International in 2016, close 60 percent of the world's cobalt supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo mined by approximately 20 percent under-aged children with hand. Currently, around 25 percent of the annual cobalt production is used in mobile devices.
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