"During 2017, lithium-ion batteries used in portable consumer electronics still consumed around 72 percent of total cobalt consumed in (lithium-ion batteries)", Darton Commodities said, adding however that this share was likely to decline because of growth in the auto sector.
Usually the firm would leave such a task in the hands of the firms that make the batteries for its iPhones, iPad and iMacs, but it seems that Apple has deemed sourcing this material is too big a job to not do itself. Reports indicate that now about a quarter of all cobalt mined globally is used in smartphones and the demand for cobalt is expected to boom by 2030.
A confidential source, speaking to Bloomberg, claimed that Apple is seeking to establish contracts to secure several thousand metric tonnes of cobalt per year for the next five years or more.
What's more, not only Apple is racing to secure its cobalt supplies. 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.
Mining giant Glencore has named Apple as one of several companies it is talking to about future supplies. Apple is one of the largest users, and until now it has been buying metal through the companies that make batteries for its devices. 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. Over the past eighteen months, the price of cobalt has tripled to more than $80,000 a metric ton.
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The report does not say which miners Apple will be dealing with, and Apple refused to comment on Bloomberg's story.
Two-thirds of supplies come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there has never been a peaceful transition of power and child labour is still used in parts of the mining industry.
The DRC is the richest source of cobalt but smaller deposits are also found in countries ranging from Finland to Canada.
In 2014, Apple first started mapping the cobalt supply chain, according to a 2016 Supplier Responsibility report.
Apple has increased its engagement with cobalt miners in recent years due to scrutiny from global human rights organizations.