Apple looking to buy cobalt direct from miners

Apple believed to be trying to deal with cobalt miners

The sources in the report claim that Apple is looking to sign contracts to secure several thousand metric tons of cobalt a year, for up to five years, or maybe even longer.

Negotiations are said to be in a preliminary stage, which means Apple may end up deciding not to go ahead with a deal, the article says. Apple is now holding talks with miners about obtaining cobalt for use in iPhone batteries, Bloomberg reported. An electric auto battery uses one thousand times more refined cobalt than a smartphone does, therefore meaning that it's actually the automobile industry which is taking up cobalt supplies.

The iPhone maker is one of the world's largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets, but until now it has left the business of buying the metal to the companies that make its batteries. About a quarter of global cobalt production is used in smartphones.

Also, it is unclear if the African country's cobalt supply will last long enough to match California's and other US states' ambitions to replace diesel-powered vehicles with electric ones. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal with an unnamed supplier in February. On it's part, Apple declined to comment on the issue.

Mining giant Glencore has named Apple as one of several companies it is talking to about future supplies.

DRC's near-monopoly position in cobalt mining has been fraught with ethical and economic issues, most notably child labor in the mines. "There's absolutely no excuse for anyone under legal working age to be in our supply chain", the company said in its most recent Supplier Responsibility Progress Report. A metric ton now costs $80,000 which is more than triple of what it used to cost 18 months ago.

China, where most of Apple's devices are manufactured, is not only the world's biggest market for smartphones and electric cars, but also the largest consumer of cobalt around the globe.

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.

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

In a report in early 2016, Amnesty International alleged that Apple and Samsung Electronics' Chinese suppliers were buying cobalt from mines that rely on child labour.

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