Apple wants to buy crucial iPhone battery metal direct from miners


iPhone X laying down
Apple has a plan to help it sidestep a potential shortage of cobalt.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple is reportedly in talks to buy the cobalt used in its iPhone batteries directly from miners for the first time.

This would mark a major change since Apple, one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt supplies, has previously left the purchasing of the metal down to the companies which build its batteries. It’s a smart move that could help prioritize Apple in the event of a major cobalt shortage.

Many people fear that cobalt will become even more sought after if the increase in demand for batteries (for things like electric vehicles) causes a worldwide shortage. The price of cobalt has reportedly more than tripled in the past 18 months to more than $80,000 per metric ton.

A smartphone battery requires only around 8 grams of refined cobalt, but these numbers add up when you take into account just how many iPhones and iPads Apple builds.

Apple is reportedly looking to sign contracts that will allow it to secure thousands of metrics tons of cobalt per year for five years or longer. Apple first held discussions with miners about this subject a year ago, but decided not to proceed at that time for unknown reasons.

Supplier responsibility

Last year was the first time that Apple addressed the subject of cobalt production in its Supplier Report, and specifically published a list of the companies which supplied the material used in its batteries. As it noted:

“Apple’s responsible sourcing efforts expanded beyond conflict minerals to include cobalt for the first time. For the second year in a row, 100% of Apple’s tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold (3TG) smelters and refiners are participating in independent third-party audits. Apple has also partnered with numerous NGOs to drive positive change on the ground, including Pact who are working to provide essential health and safety training to artisanal mining, and are building programs to help children stay in school.”

Source: Bloomberg