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Apple is looking for long-term cobalt suppliers before electric cars take off
22 February 2018, 12:46 | Kristen Gross
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 in talks to buy stocks of cobalt to ensure long-term battery supplies for its iPhones and iPads. About a quarter of global cobalt production is used in smartphones.
Apple is said to be securing contracts for the supply of several thousand metric tons of cobalt each year for five years or more. One source told Bloomberg that the iPhone maker first started the discussion on the cobalt deals previous year, but that there are chances that talks may not go anywhere right now.
Electric auto companies such as BMW and Volkswagen have been rushing to woo and procure long-term contracts with cobalt producers, according to Bloomberg. Battery manufacturers are next to acquire the cobalt, using it to produce the lithium-ion batteries found in smartphones like the iPhone.
In 2014, Apple first started mapping the cobalt supply chain, according to a 2016 Supplier Responsibility report. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal with an unnamed supplier in February. Carmakers are also racing to lock up cobalt contracts as they prepare to make more electric vehicles. Glencore, the mining multinational that operates in about 50 countries, has named Apple as one of the main customers it was talking to about cobalt, according to Bloomberg.
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Cobalt prices have risen to $80K per tonne from just above $20K per tonne two years ago. Relying on anonymous sources, Bloomberg reports that Apple is in talks to buy long-term supplies of the metal.
Tenke's mines contains one of the world's largest known deposits of copper and cobalt.
Further, the report noted that during 2017, lithium-ion batteries deployed in the portable consumer electronics products accounted for roughly 72% of total cobalt consumed in the lithium-ion batteries. 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.
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.
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