Having seen the metal triple in price to $80,000 United States dollars per ton over the last 18 months due increasing demand for cobalt in EV batteries, Apple is aiming to secure its own cobalt supply rather than relying on OEMs.
Another reason for market interest is that cobalt is largely produced as a by-product of copper and nickel mines.
"In 2017, average annual cobalt prices more than doubled, owing to strong demand from consumers, limited availability of cobalt on the spot market and an increase in metal purchases by investors", the U.S. Geological Survey said in its annual report. But by 2030, that figure is expected to skyrocket to over 300,000 tons.
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.
More than 60 percent of cobalt is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Africa, but more than half of the world's refined company chemicals that are used to build the batteries comes from China, according to a separate Bloomberg article from October.
A source has told Bloomberg Apple is seeking contracts to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt over a five-year period. The talks began over a year ago but it's not certain that Apple will take a deal in the end. Smartphones use only eight grams of cobalt, while electric vehicle batteries require over 8,000 grams. While the high-profile electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla remains discreet about its raw material needs, news reports said that Volkswagen's negotiations with cobalt producers had broken down.
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DRC's near-monopoly position in cobalt mining has been fraught with ethical and economic issues, most notably child labor in the mines.
Cobalt's cost may also be a problem.
The price per ton of cobalt rose to $82,000 on the London Metal Exchange in mid-February, its highest level since it began tracking the commodity in 2010, and has nearly tripled in value since the beginning of 2016.
"What will be interesting is the price-everybody is trying to get into cobalt so will set the price?"
Apple is looking for a direct supply route to cobalt - a key ingredient for iPhone batteries - as the Cupertino tech giant expects a spike in competition for the mineral.