Apple may buy cobalt direct from mining companies, protecting both parties
22 February, 2018, 00:49 | Author: Rolando Keller
Apple is seeking contracts to secure several thousand metric tons of cobalt a year for five years or longer, according to one of the people, declining to be named as the discussions are confidential.
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.
The talks show that the tech giant is keen to ensure that cobalt supplies for its iPhone and iPad batteries will be sufficient, with the rapid growth in battery demand for electric vehicles threatens to create a shortage of the raw material. Vehicle makers like BMW and Volkswagen are also looking to ink multi-year deals that would secure a constant flow of the rare metal.
End-users normally leave the supply of such components to their battery suppliers, but Apple is clearly concerned about a possible future shortage of cobalt.
Cobalt demand from the electric vehicles industry is also forecast to grow from to 95,000 tonnes by 2026 from 12,000 tonnes past year, according to consultancy CRU. On it's part, Apple declined to comment on the issue.
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If anything, prices for the metal are expected to rise even further this year, as the Democratic Republic of Congo, responsible for more than half the world's supply, recently hiked its taxes and royalties on the metal. 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.
Tenke's mines contains one of the world's largest known deposits of copper and cobalt.
Glencore Plc Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg late previous year named Apple among several companies the miner was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details. Cobalt is key in the production of the lithium-ion batteries found in phones, laptops and tablets.
In a report in early 2016, Amnesty International alleged that Apple and Samsung Electronics' Chinese suppliers were buying cobalt from mines that rely on child labour.
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