Apple reportedly in talks to buy cobalt, key Li-ion battery ingredient, directly from mine...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 21
Apple is reportedly in talks to secure long-term cobalt supplies directly from miners, a strategy designed to buffer reserves of the key lithium ion battery ingredient as the company competes with car makers looking to use the metal in electric car production.


Unique dual-battery design in Apple's iPhone X. | Source: iFixit


Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports Apple currently relies on battery makers to secure their own cobalt supply, but fears of a pending shortage have spurred the company to action.

Specifically, the company is in talks to procure "several thousand" metric tons of cobalt per year for a period of at least five years, one source said. Discussions with cobalt miners have been ongoing for more than a year and might not result in a deal, the report said.

With the success of iPhone, iPad and other mobile gadgets, Apple is among the world's top cobalt consumers, the report said. On a macro scale, approximately one quarter of all cobalt production ends up in smartphone batteries.

As such, Samsung's energy division, which sells its wares not only to phone makers but also electric car manufacturers, is looking to land multi-year deals with cobalt miners. Car companies like BMW and Volkswagen are also on the hunt for cobalt supply, further crowding a fairly niche space.

While Bloomberg failed to provide a detailed timeline on Apple's supposed talks, the move might be in part related to scrutiny from human rights organizations concerned with so-called conflict minerals and responsible material sourcing.

A 2016 investigation conducted by Amnesty International claimed cobalt mined by child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo made its way into the supply chains of high-tech companies like Apple, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft, as well as electric car makers like Daimler and Volkswagen.

Apple began mapping the cobalt supply chain in 2014, according to a 2016 Supplier Responsibility report (PDF link), and continues to monitor smelters, refiners and other entities involved in the supply process. In December of 2016, the company published a list of metal smelters and refiners (PDF link) that included third-party audit status and risk readiness assessment status for six cobalt suppliers.

If Apple is able to strike a direct deal with miners, it would not only ensure cobalt supply, but likely access to and closer oversight of the mining process.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    Maybe, diesel-engines are better, while they last.
  • Reply 2 of 16
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,468member
    Time for a dynamo handle. Jony Ive Style. Or maybe a dynamo health kit dongle. Stay fit and go green charging your iPhone.
  • Reply 3 of 16
    Let's hope Samsung copies this as well.
  • Reply 4 of 16
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,943member
    avon b7 said:
    Time for a dynamo handle. Jony Ive Style. Or maybe a dynamo health kit dongle. Stay fit and go green charging your iPhone.
    Whisper quiet, made from ceramics, and so small you’d need teeny tiny hands to turn it. 
    edited February 24 tmayedred
  • Reply 5 of 16
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,943member
    At some point, these shortages are going to bite everyone. Then someone will try some bizarre particle accelerator experiment to fix it, and then we’ll have sky-reaching monsters roving the landscape. 

    Sorry. 

    Netflix overdose. 
    rattlhedguerroedred
  • Reply 6 of 16
    I see this as two pronged: Apple can address labour concerns, but also deal with pricing issues with battery makers, who will likely inflate their pricing on account of more demand for a key ingredient.
  • Reply 7 of 16
    The core of the earth is made of cobalt. It is not rare, but remote.
  • Reply 8 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,847member
    So they're in talks with nickel and copper mining operations to take their cobalt waste material, or the refined cobalt which may or may not come from the mining operation directly? I don't think anyone directly mines for cobalt.
  • Reply 9 of 16
    Lol you guys are so funny right, i agreed about that dynamo, only 1 time per day to perform the workout. By the way, is there any material exist rather than lithium? Maybe Elon save the last invention for the best, i read some academic research, there are some composite material, but in the end maybe the lithium is just good for the less cost.


  • Reply 10 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,468member
    The core of the earth is made of cobalt. It is not rare, but remote.
    If so then at least is is centrally located ;)
  • Reply 11 of 16
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,181member
    In the mean time while the US government made it illegal to use material mines in places like the Congo, China has been quietly going around buying up and investing in large sections of land in places like the Congo to ensure they have access in the future to the resources in the ground. The US and the people in the US want US companies to be ethical, but the rest of the world does not care. The US can stand on the moral high ground but at some point, it will be China controlling everything.
  • Reply 12 of 16
    Apple would be better served pouring some of their billions into ongoing research and development of solid-state battery technology. Having a phone capable of recharging in a minute would be a game changer and a clear marketing advantage.
  • Reply 13 of 16
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,858member
    One way is to get more cobalt, another way is to avoid needing cobalt. For example:

    http://www.eenewspower.com/news/cobalt-free-cathode-aims-solid-state-lithium-ion-batteries

    I suspect Apple is investigating all options. 
  • Reply 14 of 16
    So actually, we are now much more closer to see a device with fast charging, i agreed with Hmlongco, recharging in a minute. So but i would say it can be done soon maybe like 15 minutes for a full charge. Right now, in 30 minutes you can get half full charged
  • Reply 15 of 16
    KenThod said:
    So actually, we are now much more closer to see a device with fast charging, i agreed with Hmlongco, recharging in a minute. So but i would say it can be done soon maybe like 15 minutes for a full charge. Right now, in 30 minutes you can get half full charged
    Charging what exactly in 30 minutes?
    Charging Phones is not the biggest problem we face. It does not even rank in the top 100 IMHO.
    The ever increasing pollution of our world is a bigger issue. At the moment, recycling Lithium batteries is possible but hard to do.
    If Apple really wanted to make a mark in this area then making that possible (and the other elements inc cobalt as well) and economic would be a far better problem to tackle.
    YMMV.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    jony0jony0 Posts: 264member
    KenThod said:
    Lol you guys are so funny right, i agreed about that dynamo, only 1 time per day to perform the workout. By the way, is there any material exist rather than lithium? Maybe Elon save the last invention for the best, i read some academic research, there are some composite material, but in the end maybe the lithium is just good for the less cost.
    hmlongco said:
    Apple would be better served pouring some of their billions into ongoing research and development of solid-state battery technology. Having a phone capable of recharging in a minute would be a game changer and a clear marketing advantage.
    KenThod said:
    So actually, we are now much more closer to see a device with fast charging, i agreed with Hmlongco, recharging in a minute. So but i would say it can be done soon maybe like 15 minutes for a full charge. Right now, in 30 minutes you can get half full charged
    We're almost there with Aluminum, hopefully sooner than later :
    Aluminium-ion battery - Wikipedia

    Still in research of course, but promising. Some features already reported from different researchers :
    • ORNL's battery producing 1,060 Wh/kg versus 406 Wh/kg for Lithium
    • Stanford claimed an aluminum-ion battery with a recharge time of about one minute, lasted over 7,500 charge-discharge cycles with no loss of capacity
    • University of Maryland made a prototype aluminium/sulfur cell which demonstrated an energy density of 800 Wh/kg for over 20 cycles
    • Zhejiang University announced 3H3C design of a battery using graphene films as anode and metallic aluminium as cathode with impressive properties :
      • The battery works well after quarter-million cycles retaining 91.7 percent of its original capacity.
      • The battery can be fully charged in 1.1 seconds.
      • The assembled battery works well across a temperature range of minus 40 to 120 degrees Celsius.
      • It offers a high current capacity (111 mAh / g 400 A / g based on the cathode).
      • It can be folded.
      • It does not explode when exposed to fire and the materials used are non flammable.
    But of course there are challenges as well :
    Aluminium-ion batteries have a relatively short shelf life. The combination of heat, rate of charge, and cycling can dramatically decrease energy capacity. When metal ion batteries are fully discharged, they can no longer be recharged. Ionic electrolyte materials are expensive.
    avon b7
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