Apple's first discussions on cobalt deals with miners were more than a year ago, and it may end up deciding not to go ahead with any deal, another person said. Bloomberg reports that smartphone batteries use around eight grams of refined cobalt, but a battery for an electric vehicle needs more than a thousand times that amount.
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. Apple has been in the talks with miners for more than a year. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal with an unnamed supplier in February.
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The report does not say which miners Apple will be dealing with, and Apple refused to comment on Bloomberg's story.
The cobalt Apple uses at the moment comes from Congo and it does get a lost of criticism because the labour used in such mines suffer from appalling conditions and use child labour. Cobalt is also mined in China, Russia, Canada and Australia, but we guess that would be more pricey. 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. Though, with interest in cobalt surging to great numbers, the money suppliers are asking for cobalt has dramatically risen too.
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.
Such companies are also facing growing public pressure to use cobalt that has not been procured using supply chains that involve human rights violations, something Apple has received scrutiny for in the past. Although Glencore - a name which may be familiar to you - is the biggest supplier, two-thirds of all cobalt supplies actually come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.