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Apple reportedly looking to buy cobalt directly from miners

The metal is essential to production of batteries for phones and electric cars.

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Apple may be looking to ensure it has adequate supplies of an essential ingredient of its iPhone batteries.

James Martin/CNET

Apple appears to be taking steps to ensure it has sufficient quantities of an essential ingredient in the batteries that power its iPhone.

The tech titan is in negotiations to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. Cobalt is key in the production of the lithium-ion batteries found in phones, laptops and tablets.

The talks underscore concerns that rapid growth in battery demand may lead to a shortage of the raw material. Apple has plenty of reason to be concerned as both phones and electric cars depend on cobalt, the price of which has doubled in the past 12 months, according to market track InvestmentMine.

The company aims to secure contracts for several thousand metric tons of cobalt each year for five year or more, the news agency reported. Companies such as BMW, Volkswagen and Samsung are also looking to lock up multi-year contracts for supplies of the metal to produce electric vehicles.

Apple has increased its engagement with cobalt miners in recent years due to scrutiny from international human rights organizations. About 60 percent of the world's cobalt supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and about 20 percent of it is mined by hand by children, Amnesty International reported in 2016.

Last March, Apple said it would stop buying cobalt mined by hand in the Congo following reports of child labor and dangerous work conditions. The tech giant has also worked closely with China-based cobalt supplier Huayou Cobalt to address child labor in its supply chain.

Apple didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.

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