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Apple Said To Buy Cobalt Directly From Miners

Apple Said To Buy Cobalt Directly From Miners

If Apple does end up buying cobalt directly, it will be in competition with vehicle manufacturers and battery makers in locking up supplies of the raw material.

Apple Inc is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt for iPhone batteries directly from miners, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing sources. About a quarter of total cobalt production is used by the smartphone companies to manufacture the batteries, according to Bloomberg.

A confidential source, speaking to Bloomberg, claimed that Apple is seeking to establish contracts to secure several thousand metric tonnes of cobalt per year for the next five years or more. While those devices use about eight grams of refined cobalt, the battery for an electric auto requires over 1,000 times more. Vehicle giants like BMW and Volkswagen are also searching for multiyear deals to ensure they also have enough cobalt to meet targets in electric auto production.

On it's part, Apple declined to comment on the issue.

The automobile sector has certainly pushed up the demand for cobalt, but it has not peaked yet, according to Darton Commodities, which specializes in the sale of cobalt. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal with an unnamed supplier in February.

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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. The metal is a key ingredient in Apple's lithium-ion batteries for iPhones and iPads.

Ivan Glasenberg, the chief executive at mining firm Glencore, said late a year ago that Apple was among several companies that the Anglo-Swiss enterprise was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details.

Hong Kong-traded China Molybdenum, based in the central province of Henan, bought a 56 per cent stake in Congo-based copper and cobalt miner Tenke Fungurume Mining for US$2.65 billion in 2016. Volkswagen reportedly tried to lock deals with cobalt suppliers by treating them to meetings in a 30,000-seat stadium in their corporate hometown in Wolfsburg, Germany.

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. 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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