EV Demand is Forcing Companies Like Apple to Source Battery Supplies Directly from Mining Companies
Cobalt supplies are getting more valuable by the dayby Mark McNabb, on
The explosion in electric vehicles with even more demand in the near future is putting cobalt supplies at its max. Cobalt, an important metal ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, has tech companies scrambling to secure large, multi-year contracts directly with cobalt mining companies, skipping the traditional route of a middleman company brokering the deal. Apple is one such high-profile company pulling up a chair at the negotiation table to secure its future access to battery supplies.
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Currently, smart phones and tech gadgets represent 25 percent of all cobalt usage
According to TechCrunch.com cobalt prices have tripled over the last 18 months to above $80,000 a metric ton, with new pressures coming directly from EV automakers. Currently, smart phones and tech gadgets represent 25 percent of all cobalt usage. A typical smart phone, like Apple’s iPhone, uses roughly eight grams of refined cobalt. An electric vehicle, on the other hand, can use 1,000 times that amount, according to Bloomberg Technology.
While automakers and tech giants buying right from the source might sound good for business and cobalt pricing, the collateral damage could result in human suffering. A January 2016 report from Amnesty International suggests cobalt mining companies aren’t being held accountable for child labor violations, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where more than 50 percent of the world’s cobalt is mined. AI suggests automakers and tech giants aren’t doing enough to circumvent such human rights violations.
A typical smart phone, like Apple’s iPhone, uses roughly eight grams of refined cobalt
Since that 2016 report, Apple has published its list of cobalt suppliers and stated it would not source from small-scale mines in the Congo until confirmation of the “appropriate protections” were taken to guard against the lingering practice of child labor.
Most recently, Amnesty International has published a November 2017 update to its list of tech giants and automakers indirectly supporting child labor. Apple ranks as the leader of change, with minimal “blind spots” in its cobalt supply chain, followed by BMW and Tesla. Further down are on the next tier is General Motors, Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and Daimler. Unfortunately, Renault and China’s BYD rank lowest in actively avoiding cobalt suppliers with child labor violations.
As cobalt becomes evermore important and coveted, automakers and tech giants will have to work side by side in addressing the child labor issues in the cobalt industry. Of course, cobalt pricing and supplies hang in balance. However, the dark cloud of bad public relations looms overhead if violations aren’t addresses.
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