Apple buys cobalt to secure long-term battery supplies

Apple is one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets
Apple is one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets
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22 February, 2018

If Apple does end up buying cobalt directly, it will be in competition with vehicle manufacturers and battery makers in locking up supplies of the raw material.

"We're not sure whether (Apple) want to buy the cobalt for the battery makers that supply them or whether they are planning to stand behind the cobalt supply chain as guarantors", a cobalt industry source said.

Last year, Apple published a list of the companies that supply the cobalt used in its batteries for the first time, and said it would not let cobalt from small-scale mines in Congo into its supply chain until it could verify that the "appropriate protections" were in place.

A confidential source, speaking to Bloomberg, claimed that Apple is seeking to establish contracts to secure several thousand metric tonnes of cobalt per year for the next five years or more.

Cutting out the middleman, Apple reportedly wants to buy cobalt directly from miners, according to a report from Bloomberg on February 21. Smartphones use only eight grams of cobalt, while electric auto batteries require over 8,000 grams.

On it's part, Apple declined to comment on the issue.

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Cobalt is a metal that is used in the making of batteries for all types of devices. In response, for the first time past year, Apple released a list of all the companies from which it secures the supply of raw material.

SK Innovation, which plans to use the raw materials at an EV battery manufacturing plant in Hungary, agreed to buy all of the project's planned output for up to 13 years, according to the filing. Apple has around 1.3 billion existing devices, while Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has been bullish about the prospects for electric vehicles.

Apple's reported move to buy cobalt directly from miners could bring efficiency to the Democratic Republic of Congo's troubled mining sector, but it will likely only muddle an already murky field.

Cobalt is now on the market for over $80,000 per metric ton and has more than doubled in price since 2016. Worldwide 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.

Tenke's mines contains one of the world's largest known deposits of copper and cobalt.


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