Apple in talks to buy cobalt directly from miners

Apple in talks to buy cobalt directly from miners

Apple in talks to buy cobalt directly from miners

About a quarter of global cobalt production is used in smartphones.

Apple aims to secure contracts for several thousand metric tons of cobalt each year for five year or more, the news agency reported.

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.

Cobalt demand from the electric vehicles industry is also forecast to grow from to 95,000 tonnes by 2026 from 12,000 tonnes past year, according to consultancy CRU.

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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.

So far, no major deals have been announced, although BMW's head of procurement told German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in early February that it was close to securing a 10-year supply deal. One source told Bloomberg that the iPhone maker first started the discussion on the cobalt deals past year, but that there are chances that talks may not go anywhere right now.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

A second benefit of direct control over the cobalt supply-chain right from the mines onward would be that Apple could guarantee compliance with its supplier standards. Over the past eighteen months, the price of cobalt has tripled to more than $80,000 a metric ton. Apple has been in the talks with miners for more than a year.

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"The problem has nothing to do with the amount of cobalt in the ground but rather the number of mines now producing cobalt", said Trent Mell, CEO of First Cobalt Corp, the world biggest cobalt exploration company. The country's cobalt imports from the Congo reached US$1.2 billion in the first nine months of previous year.

Tenke's mines contains one of the world's largest known deposits of copper and cobalt. Much of that bumper 44% dividend payout is due to the spike in cobalt, which saw a 108% increase on the average price, from $12 a pound to around $25 a pound a year ago alone. Although Glencore - a name which may be familiar to you - is the biggest supplier, two-thirds of all cobalt supplies actually come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It also comes just a week after Samsung SDI, South Korea's leading battery maker, unveiled plans to recycle cobalt from used mobile phones and develop lithium-ion batteries with minimum content of the metal, or no cobalt at all, as a way to offset soaring prices for the silver-grey commodity.

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