Apple turns directly to mines to secure Cobalt required for batteries

REUTERS

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Apple Inc. may start buying cobalt directly from miners, according to a Bloomberg report, which says that Apple is concerned about there being a shortage of the material amid booming demand for electric vehicles.

Apple and other major cobalt consumers are scurrying to access cobalt resources that are now limited-not because of the amount of ore available, but because mining companies can't get it out of the ground fast enough to keep up with everyday demand of rechargeable batteries.

Apple said last March it would stop buying cobalt mined by hand in the Congo following reports of child labor and unsafe work conditions. By securing their cobalt supply, Apple is doing what big manufacturers have done for years.

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Locking in cobalt supplies has become a dominant theme as it is also used in batteries to power electric vehicles whose rapid growth is revolutionizing the motor industry, which is also looking to agree on long-term supply deals.

Apple's first discussions on cobalt deals with miners were more than a year ago, and it may end up deciding not to go ahead with any deal, another person said. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal with an unnamed supplier in February.

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.

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About 62 per cent of the world's cobalt supply is now controlled by China, and more than 90 per cent of that comes from Congo, according to metals consultancy CRU. 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.

Apple is among the largest consumer of cobalt. 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.

While a lot of research is being done on alternatives to lithium-ion batteries for safety and environmental purposes, right now the majority of our electronic gadgets are powered using lithium-ion batteries and it is a reality that's hard to escape.

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