The tech titan is in negotiations to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
It can be recalled that in March 2017, Apple announced that it would stop buying hand-mined cobalt in the Congo following reports of child labor and unsafe work conditions. 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.
Apple is not the only company seeking long-term cobalt supply deals: BMW has been seeking its own 10-year deal for its electric auto program.
Apple is said to be securing contracts for the supply of several thousand metric tons of cobalt each year for five years or more.
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Also, it is unclear if the African country's cobalt supply will last long enough to match California's and other USA states' ambitions to replace diesel-powered vehicles with electric ones. South Korea's top oil refiner, SK Innovation Co., agreed to a deal this week of $3.9 billion with Australian Mines Ltd. BMW is also close to securing a 10-year supply deal.
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. Its first discussions for deals took place a year ago, but another source told Bloomberg that Apple might not even go ahead with the plans. Glencore, the mining multinational that operates in about 50 countries, has named Apple as one of the main customers it was talking to about cobalt, according to Bloomberg.
The London Metal Exchange (LME), the world's biggest market for industrial metals, has also stepped up efforts to make sure that cobalt mined by child labour doesn't trade on the exchange, following several reports indicating that minors are being exploited to extract the coveted mineral.
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.