Apple is looking to purchase Cobalt directly from miners. Cobalt is a key mineral for lithium ion batteries, which power most Apple products, and the deals would ensure that Apple has access to several thousand metric tons per year. The move to buy direct is not the first time that Apple has decided to go straight to the source for components. In 2005, for example, Apple secured deals for NAND flash drives that are used in iPods and iPhones.[1] 

Though Apple leaves the purchasing of cobalt to its battery companies for now, a deal to buy directly would compete with auto manufacturers like BMW and Volkswagen, who also need cobalt for the rising demand of electric vehicles. 

According to a recent report from Bloomberg, “[smartphone] devices use about eight grams of refined cobalt, the battery for an electric car requires over 1,000 times more.” The report also mentions that Apple’s “engagement with cobalt suppliers after the origin of the metal in its supply chain came under scrutiny from human rights groups. In a report in early 2016, Amnesty International alleged that Apple and Samsung Electronics Co.’s Chinese suppliers were buying cobalt from mines that rely on child labor.”[2] 

The report led Apple to consider other mines and stated that they would not source cobalt from Congo, until they could verify that they source the material ethically.

[1]  https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2005/11/21Apple-Announces-Long-Term-Supply-Agreements-for-Flash-Memory/

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-21/apple-is-said-to-negotiate-buying-cobalt-direct-from-miners?utm_content=tech&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&cmpid%3D=socialflow-twitter-tech