Electric vehicle boom prompts Apple to get serious about securing cobalt

22 February, 2018, 01:01 | Author: Darren Santiago
  • Apple may be looking to ensure it has adequate supplies of an essential ingredient of its iPhone batteries.                  James Martin  CNET

Tech giant Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) is said to be in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners as a way to ensure sufficient supply of the metal, an essential ingredient in the batteries that power its iPhone.

Companies are rushing to get cobalt amid fears of a potential shortage, with the rising use of electric cars - whose batteries also use the metal - potentially limiting its supply.

Now it seems that Apple is concerned that the prices of Cobalt are getting out of hand and it is seeking contracts to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt for five years or longer.

Until now, Apple left the business of buying cobalt to the companies that make its batteries. Cobalt is key in the production of the lithium-ion batteries found in phones, laptops and tablets. "There's absolutely no excuse for anyone under legal working age to be in our supply chain", the company said in its most recent Supplier Responsibility Progress Report.

Asked on a results call with reporters on Wednesday about the company's relationship with Apple, Glencore's Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg said: "We have not signed any deals", adding that Glencore would not sign any long-term deals because the company did not want to lock in cobalt prices. 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.

Ivan Glasenberg, the chief executive at mining firm Glencore, said late previous year that Apple was among several companies that the Anglo-Swiss enterprise was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details. Apple has been in the talks with miners for more than a year. Though, with interest in cobalt surging to great numbers, the money suppliers are asking for cobalt has dramatically risen too. The iPhone maker now publishes a list of its cobalt suppliers.

Over the years, the Cupertino, California-based company has faced the heat of human rights groups, which allege that Apple has kept its ethics at stake by sourcing supply from the mines involved in child labor.

Dealing direct with mines would provide a guaranteed supply for Apple's batteries.


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