Apple buys cobalt to secure long-term battery supplies

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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.

It also comes just a week after Samsung SDI, South Korea's leading battery maker, unveiled plans to recycle cobalt from used mobile phones and develop lithium-ion batteries with minimum content of the metal, or no cobalt at all, as a way to offset soaring prices for the silver-grey commodity.

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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.

According to a new report from Bloomberg citing an anonymous source, Apple aims to secure contracts for several thousand metric tons of cobalt each year for five year or more, the news agency reported. According to Bloomberg, talks began a year ago and Apple still may not proceed with the deal.

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Apple ranks among the top companies for having taken "adequate action" to make sure its cobalt supply chain is safe, according to the organization. Volkswagen reportedly tried to lock deals with cobalt suppliers by treating them to meetings in a 30,000-seat stadium in their corporate hometown in Wolfsburg, Germany. These players would not leave any stone unturned to secure the supply of cobalt in the future as well. However, the rapidly growing demand has not yet peaked, according to Darton Commodities, which specializes in the sale of cobalt. Darton, however, feels that the share would drop because of the growth in the auto sector. In addition, more than half of cobalt mining production came from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017. However, the country has always been marred by political instability and accusations of child labor.

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.

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The price per ton of cobalt rose to $82,000 on the London Metal Exchange in mid-February, its highest level since it began tracking the commodity in 2010, and has nearly tripled in value since the beginning of 2016. Additionally, it vowed not to take supplies from any company who fails to prove that "appropriate protections" are in place to safeguard against child labor, notes MacRumors.