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Global Business & Markets

Apple signs contracts with cobalt mines

It’s getting tight on the lithium-ion battery market. Apple now wants to safeguard against delivery bottlenecks of the metal needed for battery production.

08 Mar. 2018
Roland Freist
HMI-ID02-097rf_DartonCommodities
Apple signs contracts with cobalt mines (Chart: Darton Commodities)

According to media reports , Apple is in talks with several mining companies to secure their future supply of cobalt. Due to the expected increase in demand for electric cars, global demand is expected to increase sharply over the next few years. At the same time, Apple also needs the metal for the batteries of its mobile devices. However, just 8g of cobalt is needed to produce a lithium-ion based smartphone battery, while car batteries contain an average of 21kg.

So far, Apple purchased completed batteries. If the company is now approaching the mining companies directly, that means it wants to take battery production in its own hand. Some commentators suggest that Apple is looking for a transparent supply chain. Because about 60% of the metal comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there are repeatedly reports of child labor in the mines. A reason for the supply contracts could therefore be that Apple wants to increase its influence on the production companies in order to exclude such practices in the manufacture of its products.

At the same time, however, a shortage of cobalt supply on the world market is to be expected. Since the beginning of 2016, the price of the metal has almost tripled from around $600 to $1,700 and further price increases are to be expected. The automotive industry is also reacting to this with long-term contracts with the supplier companies. As FAZ reports , BMW is currently in negotiations with mining companies to ensure its suppliers’ cobalt supply for the next five to ten years.