Apple Said To Buy Cobalt Directly From Miners

Apple is one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets

This is possibly the first time the iPhone maker is actively working to ensure a continuous supply of the basic raw material used for the manufacturing of batteries.

Bloomberg found that Apple is talking directly to cobalt miners to secure the supply of this key ingredient in its batteries. Bloomberg notes that about a quarter of global cobalt production is used in smartphones and that Apple is keen to shore up its cobalt supplies to have enough for sufficient production of iPhone and iPad batteries. Vehicle makers like BMW and Volkswagen are also looking to ink multi-year deals that would secure a constant flow of the rare metal. Any phone company that needs lithium-ion batteries is ultimately sourcing much of its cobalt from the DRC.

So far, no major deals have been announced, although BMW's head of procurement told German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in early February that it was close to securing a 10-year supply deal.

The move to get more supplies of cobalt means the technology giant will find itself in competition with electric carmakers and battery producers to lock up cobalt supplies.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment. In response, for the first time a year ago, Apple released a list of all the companies from which it secures the supply of raw material. Apple has been in the talks with miners for more than a year.

The London Metal Exchange (LME), the world's biggest market for industrial metals, has also stepped up efforts to make sure that cobalt mined by child labour doesn't trade on the exchange, following several reports indicating that minors are being exploited to extract the coveted mineral.

Apple is among the largest consumer of cobalt. Currently, around 25 percent of the annual cobalt production is used in mobile devices. Cobalt has been at the center of several heated debates over the years as the largest supplier of cobalt is the Republic of Congo, where even children work as miners. 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.

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