Apple Securing Supply of Key Ingredient in Its Batteries, Cobalt

Apple believed to be trying to deal with cobalt miners

Apple reportedly looking to buy cobalt directly from miners

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.

According to a new report from Bloomberg citing an anonymous source, Apple aims to secure contracts for several thousand metric tons of cobalt each year for five year or more, the news agency reported.

The Amnesty report noted that some tech companies reliant on lithium-ion batteries, including Apple, BMW, HP, and Tesla, have taken more action than others in recent years to verify that their cobalt components come from suppliers that watch out for human rights abuses.

But due to the exponentially growing demand for the metal, prices per metric ton of cobalt have more than increased threefold from between September 2016 and January 2018 to more than $70,000. "We're not sure of the volumes, but if they are looking for anything more than a couple of years, they might be disappointed". 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. While Apple may just stick with relying on its battery manufacturers and scrap the direct buying route, plenty of other companies are going straight to the source.

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

The price per ton of cobalt rose to $82,000 on the London Metal Exchange in mid-February, its highest level since it began tracking the commodity in 2010, and has nearly tripled in value since the beginning of 2016.

About 62 per cent of the world's cobalt supply is now controlled by China, and more than 90 per cent of that comes from Congo, according to metals consultancy CRU. Apple has plenty of reason to be concerned as smartphones and electric cars depend on the cobalt, the price of which has doubled in the past 12 months, according to market track InvestmentMine.

Cobalt is a byproduct of copper and nickel mining, used until recently to harden steel and before its ability to efficiently conduct electricity was discovered. Global cobalt prices soared from $34,600 per ton in January 2017 to $81,360 this year, rising by about 135 percent, due to ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo - the biggest cobalt producer globally.

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