Apple is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners for the first time, seeking to ensure it will have enough of the key battery ingredient amid industry fears of a shortage driven by the electric vehicle boom.
Apple is one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets – particularly its iPhones, but until now it has left the business of buying the metal to the companies that make its batteries.
According to a Bloomberg report, the talks show that the tech giant is keen to ensure that cobalt supplies for its iPhone and iPad batteries will be sufficient, with the rapid growth in battery demand for electric vehicles threatens to create a shortage of the raw material. About a quarter of global cobalt production is used in smartphones.
Apple is seeking contracts to secure several thousand metric tons of cobalt a year for five years or longer, according to one of the people, declining to be named as the discussions are confidential. Apple’s first discussions on cobalt deals with miners were over a year ago, and it may end up deciding not to go ahead with any deal, another person said.
Bloomberg said an Apple spokesman declined to comment. Glencore Plc Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg late last year named Apple among several companies the miner was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details.
The move would mean that Apple will find itself in competition with car makers and battery producers to lock up cobalt supplies. Companies from BMW and Volkswagen to Samsung are racing to sign multi-year cobalt contracts deals to ensure they have sufficient supplies of the metal to meet ambitious targets for electric vehicle production.