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Apple buys cobalt to secure long-term battery supplies

22 February 2018

Citing anonymous sources, Bloomberg reports that the company is trying to secure contracts for several thousand tonnes of cobalt for five years or longer. One source told Bloomberg that the iPhone maker first started the discussion on the cobalt deals a year ago, but that there are chances that talks may not go anywhere right now. It's apparently due to concerns over shortages caused by the recent boom in electric vehicles, and it's hardly surprising considering the iPhone maker is one of the world's largest end users of cobalt as it uses it in all of its device batteries. Other companies like BMW, Volkswagen, and Samsung are also aiming to secure multi-year contracts for supplies of the raw material to produce electric vehicles.

Apple Inc is talking to major cobalt producers to secure supplies of the material vital for the lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that power its mobile phones, three cobalt industry sources said. 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.

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Also, it is unclear if the African country's cobalt supply will last long enough to match California's and other USA states' ambitions to replace diesel-powered vehicles with electric ones. On it's part, Apple declined to comment on the issue. Apple has been in the talks with miners for more than a year. Over the past eighteen months, the price of cobalt has tripled to more than $80,000 a metric ton.

A second benefit of direct control over the cobalt supply-chain right from the mines onward would be that Apple could guarantee compliance with its supplier standards.

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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.

Apple is among the largest consumer of cobalt. Cobalt is a key component of smartphones batteries, and it's estimated that each smartphone uses around eight grams of refined cobalt.

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Glencore Plc Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg late past year named Apple among several companies the miner was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details.

Apple buys cobalt to secure long-term battery supplies