Apple Inc. is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly for miners, according to Bloomberg citing unnamed sources. The company wants to ensure its supplies of the key battery ingredient in the context of industry fears of a shortage due to the electric vehicle boom.

About a quarter of global cobalt is used in smartphones. Apple is one of the largest users, and until now it has been buying metal through the companies that make batteries for its devices.

Two-thirds of cobalt supplies come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that has never had a peaceful transition of power and child labour is still used in the mining industry. Last year, Apple said it would not let cobalt into its supply chain unless it can verify that “appropriate protections” were in place.

Each smartphone battery uses around eight grams of refined cobalt, while an electric car requires over 1,000 times more. The price of cobalt has more than tripled in the past 18 months, reaching over USD 80,000/metric ton.

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