Apple in talks to buy cobalt directly from miners

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

But as electric vehicles are expected to rise in demand, Darton Commodities expects by 2030 a sixfold jump in battery-related cobalt production to 324,300 tons.

Plug-in electric vehicles need the rare mineral for their lithium-ion batteries, as well.

The iPhone maker is seeking contracts to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt for five years or longer, Bloomberg reported, citing an anonymous source.

Apple is one of the planet's largest hoarders of cobalt, but until recently, it has purchased it via its battery manufacturers.

Apple is not the only company seeking long-term cobalt supply deals: BMW has been seeking its own 10-year deal for its electric vehicle program.

Shares in Apple vaulted $1.65, or 1%, to $173.50, as the clock approached noon Wednesday.

Cobalt prices went ballistic a year ago, with the metal quoted on the London Metal Exchange ending 2017 at $75,500 per tonne, a 129 percent annual surge sparked by intensifying supply fears and an expected demand spike from battery markets.

If there is a shortage, Apple will have nothing to fear because it would have already secured a hefty supply of the element in the first place.

Industry sources said Apple had spoken to miners such as Glencore, a top producer, which said late last year it would produce around 39,000 tonnes of cobalt this year.

Two-thirds of supplies come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there has never been a peaceful transition of power and child labour is still used in parts of the mining industry. Cobalt is also mined in China, Russia, Canada and Australia, but we guess that would be more pricey. These players would not leave any stone unturned to secure the supply of cobalt in the future as well. According to Amnesty International, about 20 percent of the cobalt mined in Congo is extracted by hand by informal miners including children, often in risky conditions.

Apple has increased its engagement with cobalt miners in recent years due to scrutiny from worldwide human rights organizations.

Further complicating matters, Apple and Samsung have both been put under scrutiny for procuring cobalt from mines where child labor was found to have been used.

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