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.
And, according to the sources, that's exactly it.
The key element in every lithium-ion battery is in heavy demand as the electric vehicle industry will need more of it in the future.
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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.
Some materials companies are working on ways to recover and recycle cobalt from old and faulty batteries as alternatives to mining new supplies. The tech giant currently leaves cobalt buying to battery manufacturers, but now the company wants to ensure it can lock down enough of the metal to maintain a sufficient supply. But as battery science continues to improve and battery quality control becomes ever more important, it's easy to believe Apple could want to exert more and more control over the manufacturing process - and locking down the necessary resources to do so would be a good first step. 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.
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One issue with the cobalt supply is proportion.
Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cobalt prices have risen to $80K per tonne from just above $20K per tonne two years ago.
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Hong Kong-traded China Molybdenum, based in the central province of Henan, bought a 56 per cent stake in Congo-based copper and cobalt miner Tenke Fungurume Mining for US$2.65 billion in 2016. Global cobalt prices soared from $34,600 per ton in January 2017 to $81,360 this year, rising by about 135 percent, due to ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo - the biggest cobalt producer globally.